Mr Cross ‘in the sticks’ for 23 years
The Hawke’s Bay boss for the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, Tony Cross, says it never occurred to him when he arrived in Hastings as a fresh-faced 21-year-old that he would one day manage the board’s most productive region.
In 1961 he was sent from head ofﬁce for a two-year stint “in the sticks” to broaden his experience.
Young Tony in those days saw his future as being in head ofﬁce at Wellington.
“It wasn’t a matter of choice then. I was looking to move away (from Hastings) for further experience,” said Mr Cross, who is still waiting for that shift but does not really want it.
Tonight his 25 years with the board are being marked with a presentation by Ken Kiddle, the board chairman, of a gold watch. The presentation is being made at the branch staff’s annual Christmas party.
Hastings is the second town Mr Cross settled in after reaching Wellington in 1958 as an assisted immigrant from England, virtually straight from school.
He married Pat, a former Wellington girl, at Hastings in 1962 and the family, now ﬁve, have made their home in Havelock North.
Mr Cross says he prefers working in Hastings and being close to the productive side of the industry to being surrounded by steel and glass in Wellington.
As the region’s top administrator and organiser of the distribution side of the industry, he sees his main challenge as keeping ahead of requirements.
Each year the board must provide coolstores and handling arrangements, for a rapidly expanding crop.
In the past four years, packing and distribution from orchards has very occasionally ground to a halt when shipping has been disrupted by strikes and coolstores have overﬂowed at the peak of the season.
But overall he believes the Hastings branch “has a pretty good record as far as growers are concerned in handling the crop.”
He has gained a lot of satisfaction from meeting the distribution challenges since being appointed regional manager in 1972.
No two seasons are the same, he says, which freshens the challenge.
And he says the increases in fruit production from Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne orchards have been gradual.
But production in the next eight years is expected to increase at a faster pace, with this year’s crop of 6.2-million carton equivalents doubling by 1992.
“We will be able to handle the increase provided we have the money to do so,” says Mr Cross.
There will, however, be “all sorts of difﬁculties.”
A major difficulty will be in ﬁnding enough people for the seasonal work of picking and packing fruit on orchards then handling it in the board’s stores.
Being placed in charge of the distribution of fruit to the New Zealand market was Mr Cross’ ﬁrst promotion three years after arriving in Hastings. He was the chief distributor until 1970 when he was placed in charge of making the board’s export shipping arrangements.
The appointment coincided with the board’s decision in 1971 to “sack” the Conference lines as its shipper to Europe.
Mr Cross says a furore followed together with some amazement that the minnow of the producer boards should have the temerity to take such a firm line with the powerful British Conference lines.
“I don’t know whether the (apple and pear) industry would have survived if we hadn’t made that change,” he said.
Other producer boards about 10 years later followed the board’s lead.
He has never wanted to become a grower despite his afﬁnity with growers.
He believes in people specialising and doing what they do best.
He does not grow his own fruit or vegetables at home. “Others can do it so much better,” he says.
Photo caption – Tony Cross … challenges have given him satisfaction.