A Central Otago cherry orchard has been recognised for its commitment to employee development at the recent Primary Industries Good Employer Awards.

Central Cherry Orchard Ltd Partnership, which is based in Waikerikeri, just north of Clyde, received the Employee Development Award at the event at the Beehive last week.

It comprised a team of six workers in the off-season who worked across 75ha of cherry blocks.

Orchard manager Hayden Taylor said the win was ‘‘surreal’’.

The orchard’s focus on robust training was the key to its success, he said.

As a relatively new orchard, it was still in the process of being fully established.

‘‘There’s actually a legacy that needs to be created with this place,’’ Mr Taylor said.

He hoped by investing in people and skills, workers could see the orchard as their legacy as well.

‘‘We can bring those with leadership skills, those core good work ethics bring them in and . . .train our guys for our property.’’

My Taylor hoped employee development would become commonplace in the industry.

‘‘It shouldn’t be an award that we strive for. It should just be the norm.’’

Operation manager Chris Hull said the award was recognition of the orchard’s ability to recruit and train good workers from outside the industry.

‘‘We want people who we recruit to know that if they come here, they have a chance to make a career and we will support their development.’’

Technology was rapidly developing within the industry, leading to a greater need for new skills, he said.

‘‘I don’t think [technology] will negate the need for staff . . .it will just mean their skill set will be different,’’ Mr Hull said.

The orchard was also providing opportunities to future workers and had recently taken on a local high school pupil for part-time work experience.

The Central Otago District Council was proud of the recognition, economic development manager Nick Lanham said.

“Stoked to hear that a Central Otago grower has won the national Employee Development Award.

‘‘People are a vital component of any business especially those in the horticulture sector and it is great to see Central Cherry Partnerships recognised for their progressive approach to staff development”.