Waimana Marine continuously thrives as industry pioneers

Having spent his life working within the mussel industry in and around the sparkling waters of Marlborough, Simon Pooley reckons he has held every position there is and remains as passionate about the industry as when he was a boy working on his dad’s boats. “When I was a boy, I had a fishing rod over the side of the boat, school holidays I’d be working in the business and I worked on the boats when I left school. I’ve been a deck hand, a skipper, managed the family business and now own it.”

Based in picturesque Elaine Bay, Waimana Marine’s mussel farms are spread around the central Marlborough Sounds area as well as Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. The origins stretch back to 1981 when Simon’s father, a North Canterbury crayfisherman, moved his young family to the Sounds to follow an opportunity in the mussel industry and became one of its pioneers.

“Dad helped transition it from a hands-on cottage industry to the mechanised volume-driven industry that it is now. By 2005, Dad was a 50% shareholder in the biggest mussel-farming company in the world. He sold his share, and we went back to being a small family mussel-farming business, which is when I took over management. We contract harvest, seed, do farm maintenance and spat production, as well as growing over 500 tonnes of our own mussel crop.”

Waimana Marine’s Simon Pooley has spent his life working in the mussel industry.

Waimana Marine employs a team of 17 staff including 11 vessel-based crew on two different boats, three shore-based staff and three in administration/management. “Mussel farming is an awesome career opportunity for people who want to work at sea, and the opportunity to progress will hinge directly on people’s own motivation and appetite to challenge themselves and grow.”

“Career development is something that we really try to push, and there’s always a pathway for those who want it.”

“Our boats are working four days on/four days off or four days on/three days off. So, the shift rotations are really attractive. You end up working less than half a year for a full-time job, though you do work hard, long hours while at sea.” Simon acknowledges there are days at sea when you might want to be somewhere else because you get tired, wet and hungry, while other days there’s just no other place you would rather be working; outside in one of the most beautiful places in the world, doing one of the best jobs in the world.

While Waimana Marine’s family culture draws in young people keen on joining the industry, Simon agrees that finding good stable people to bring in at the bottom end can be challenging. “The older we get, the more awesome we are, I think. But at the end of the day, our workforce is 40 – 65-year-olds, and we need good young people. When we find a young person worth investing in, we really do.”

“There are a couple of young fellas at the moment who are awesome, and a breath of fresh air. We like to think of ourselves as one big family, where everybody is important, and we take care of people. Career development is something that we really try to push, and there’s always a pathway for those who want it.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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