Hines dominates BOP Young Grower titles

24 July 2023

All-round supremacy has seen Ōpōtiki orchard manager Sydney Hines named Bay of Plenty Young Grower for 2023 at the awards ceremony in Mount Maunganui last night.

The 24-year-old captured the title at her first attempt, dominating the practical tasks and impressing the judges with a speech on biotechnology, securing a spot at October's national finals in Pukekohe.

In front of her proud family and with Minister of Education Jan Tinetti presenting the award, Sydney headed off seven other strong contenders, winning five of the 10 tasks, with Southern Cross Horticulture's Ashdon Reid taking out two and finishing runner-up.

"All the tasks had a few things that stumped me a little bit and the only one I was reasonably confident on was the ‘day in the life of an orchard manager’ test, which they said I was the first one to get through it all," a jubilant Sydney said. "I definitely wasn't expecting to get up on stage that many times – I was really surprised to win the speech competition and just overwhelmed to win overall. It’s a really good feeling."

Raised in Mangakino on a third-generation dairy farm, Sydney has spent the past two years working for Sybton Horticulture, an orchard management company with interests in the Eastern Bay and Northland. She also provides technical support and compliance advice, helping oversee 35 hectares of avocados and around 240 hectares of kiwifruit, mostly around Kerikeri and Ōpōtiki.

With a Bachelor of Commerce from Massey University, she is also putting the finishing touches on a post-graduate diploma in horticulture science through Lincoln University.

The day-long competition, at both Mount Maunganui College and Mercury Baypark, saw contestants complete an array of tasks, such as tractor-backing and loading, soil moisture management and biosecurity theory.

As well as a new chainsaw and the $1500 first prize, Sydney also grabbed a $2500 Upskilling Committee scholarship.

Erin Atkinson, chair of the Bay of Plenty Young Growers, said the standard of contestants continued to rise.

“It's been a tough year for many Bay of Plenty growers but the young industry talent coming through has certainly provided a bright spot," she said. "That youthful injection of talent and enthusiasm is vital to the future of our horticulture industries and we're delighted to be able to showcase them again this year."

Sydney will go on to compete in the national Young Grower of the Year finals in October, run by Horticulture New Zealand, against regional champions from Pukekohe, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Nelson and Central Otago.