Wellingford Ng-Waishing pads across his office in his socks, carrying handfuls of onions. Outside paddocks of dark furrowed soil stretch away into their green matrix: Pukekohe’s pastoral landscape. Wellingford is third generation New Zealand-born Chinese. He took over the family business with brothers Clinton and Franklin in the mid-80s. Since those days his dad’s modest holding and single packing shed have burgeoned into four cavernous processing and packing plants and 728 hectares of land producing onions, butternut squash, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, silverbeet and several lines of Bio-Gro certified organic produce. Onions represent 30 per cent of Ng-Waishing’s exports and squash comes a close second.The Ng-Waishing operation – one of the biggest of its kind – may not be as sexy as a bio-tech research lab or IT company but it’s authentically, uniquely New Zealand and it sure helps bring home the nation’s economic bacon.Ng-Waishing onions and squash contribute to the $1.9 billion a year we earn from horticultural exports – our fifth-biggest export earner after dairy, tourism, meat and forestry. Onions earn $96 million a year and rank third in the hort export lineup after kiwifruit ($585 million), apples and pears ($344 million) – and ahead of squash ($70 million). They’re a backbone crop – a core ingredient in the potential-packed, knowledge-economy food industry that generates 51 per cent of this country’s export income. Glorious good food is New Zealand’s real whiz bang business and our natural advantage.
North & South magazine’s August 2002 edition.