How one practical learner left school and has worked his way up to become Coolstore Operations Manager at Mpac.

By Casey Vassallo

Nik Cavill hit a point in Seventh Form where he’d dread the day ahead – so he secured himself a kiwifruit packhouse job with Mount Pack & Cool (Mpac) and left Mount Maunganui College.

“I knew it was a job where they always needed people,” Nik says of the kiwifruit industry. “I ended up sticking with it.”

Nik began stacking boxes on night shift in March 2010, working 50 hours across six days a week.

The physical work appealed to him because, like many, Nik is a practical, hands-on learner, which aligned with the kiwifruit industry’s foundations.

“I learn things by doing things, not hearing or reading them,” he says.

Today, the 27-year-old is Mpac’s Coolstore Operations Manager. This year marks his 11th with the company. But it took a lot of hard work, commitment and motivation to get there.

After Nik’s first season, he went on Work and Income between gigs but returned to Mpac the following season to pick up where he left off. This time though, alongside stacking, he took on more responsibilities like looking after Fruit cassettes that label fruit and putting his hand up for anything that needed doing, including customer labeling, staying late, helping new stackers understand the processes.

stayed on to do the repack season, which runs from June to November. “The company saw my commitment, and that’s how I started making steps toward obtaining permanent work,” Nik says.

Work came to a halt when Nik got sick and had to take a few months off. As his body wasn’t yet ready to get back into manual labour, Mpac got him doing Electronic Data Inventories (EDI) for a few months until he was back on his game.

“It would have been easy enough to replace me, but Mpac saw the potential in me and offered me light-duty work,” he says. “After that, I started working in the coolstore as a forklift driver and officially became a permanent employee.” Nik drove forklifts for over four years and obtained his CCP6 authorised training to load trucks and containers, and approve the paperwork.

“From there, I stepped up again and started running the receipt of all the kiwifruit bins coming in from the orchard, and looked after all the Controlled Atmosphere (CA) rooms,” Nik says.

He became the go-to at Mpac’s Aerodrome Road site, running the yard for three years before being offered the Coolstore Operations Manager position, which meant taking on the company’s new Tauriko site too.

“They had the advert out there, but I never thought of applying for it until one of the bosses at Mpac asked me one day if I was interested in taking on the job,” Nik says.

After consulting with partner Maria (and mother to their four-year-old son, Martin) about the next step up in his career, and the further commitment it would require, he decided to take the job. “It’s quite a busy role, but I enjoy a challenge,” he says. “Since I stepped into this position, I’ve created a pretty good core team of guys and girls.” A typical day at ‘the office’ is non-stop for Nik. He’s always on the move and checking things are getting done. “I still jump on the machinery and load trucks and containers when we’re short on numbers.

Each season is different too, with new challenges and an ever-increasing amount of fruit. “With the way the company is going, I can only see myself taking on more and more,” he says. “There’s a big future here, and that will only continue as the industry is growing rapidly, especially with SunGold kiwifruit.” And with development and expansion comes job opportunities.

“I started by lifting boxes and proved I was capable of doing other things,” he says. “Since I’ve been [at Mpac], I’ve been very well looked after. Jan Benes, the Managing Director has always stood beside me and pushed me. I learn from him daily.”

Nik now passes on what he’s learnt to his team and regularly shares his story to show just where they can go if they apply the same work ethic.