2019 Young Horticulturist Announced

15 November 2019

Simon Gourley

Simon Gourley of Domaine Thomson Wines is the 2019 Young Horticulturist of the Year.

From Central Otago, Simon (28) represented the NZ Winegrowers sector at the competition, which celebrates excellence in people aged under 30, employed in the horticulture industry.

It’s the second consecutive year the Young Horticulturist (Kaiahuone rangatahi o te tau) title has been won by a viticulturist. Last year’s winner was Annabel Bulk, who is also from Central Otago.

The winners were announced at a gala dinner in Auckland last night.

In second place was Rico Mannall, of Christchurch, representing the NZ Plant Producers sector; with Jono Sutton taking third place honours. Jono, from Nelson, was representing the Horticulture NZ sector.

Speaking immediately after the winning announcement, Simon said he felt privileged to be involved in the Young Horticulturist competition and to represent the wine industry. The last few months had been very busy in preparation.

“It was hard work and strong competition to get to this point. But I’m feeling pretty good now and definitely happy the award has gone to Central Otago for the second year in a row.”

Simon will now head to Blenheim for the NZ Wine Awards, then back to his family on Sunday, before returning to work on Monday.  He suspects a special celebratory bottle of wine could be consumed somewhere along that journey.

Simon receives not only the winner’s trophy but also $7,500 from Fruitfed supplies in travel and accommodation; $1,000 from ICL Specialty Fertilisers; one-year membership to the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science; and a selection of Aorangi merchant pruning tools.

The 2019 Young Horticulturist award winner studied a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenoloy at Lincoln University. He has worked at Two Paddocks as Assistant Vineyard Manager, Central Otago Wine Company as Assistant Winemaker and Domaine Thomson Wines – where he has been for the past 18 months - as viticulturist. He also did a small stint as a vineyard hand in Australia for Treasury Wines.

Simon went to school in Invercargill and now lives in Clyde.

Joining Simon, Rico and Jono as finalists were Dunedin’s Anika Jackson (Amenity Horticulture sector); George Tower, of Christchurch (Master Landscapers sector), and Jessie Wakeling, of Auckland (Floristry NZ Inc sector).
In addition to the first, second and third placings the following awards were announced:

  • T&G practical Components Award – Simon Gourley
  • Fruitfed Suppliers leadership award – Rico Mannall
  • Horticentre charitable trust community engagement award – Jono Sutton
  • AGMARDT Market Innovation Project winners: Rico Mannall 1st; Anika Jackson 2nd; Simon Gourley 3rd
  • Bayer Best Practise Award, Jono Sutton
  • Primary ITO Career Development Award, George Tower
  • Each finalist also received a $500 award from Countdown.

The Young Horticulturist Competition is in its 15th year and remains a rigorous competition that attracts impressive young people from the wider horticultural industry, says the competition’s chairperson Elle Anderson.

“It provides an opportunity for personal and professional growth for these exemplary young leaders who will inspire the industry and others to ensure our horticultural industry stays ahead of the world with innovations.”

It’s an important event for the primary sectors of NZ, she says

The competition has four partnering sponsors – namely: AGMARDT, Countdown, Fruitfed Supplies and T&G.

As second place getter, Rico wins a $5,500 study scholarship from Massey University; $750 from ICL Specialty Fertilisers; and one-year membership to the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

Jono wins $1,000 in cash, $500 from ICL Specialty Fertilisers and one-year membership to the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

Comments from the sponsors

Fruitfed Supplies national manager Duncan Fletcher says the key focus for Fruitfed Supplies is supporting a competition that encourages young horticulturists across the product and amenity sectors to challenge themselves, keep learning, develop their own style of leadership and to take pride from their commitment to the horticultural industry that serves NZ well in global food markets.

T&G managing director – NZ produce Andrew Keaney says horticulture needs to remain a viable, attractive and fulfilling career option for young people and says being a Young Horticulturist Competition partner is a good fit for T&G – New Zealand’s largest produce company.

“We compete at efficiently producing safe, tasty, high-quality products that are in high demand on the global market. Our fertile soils and our growers are among the best in the world. New Zealand horticulture is an exciting industry to be a part of.”

Countdown head of produce Steve Sexton says Countdown is passionate about great fruit and veg and works hard on fostering its direct grower relationships throughout the country.

“We also want to ensure that we are supporting the next generation of growers and that's why we're really proud to continue to support the Young Horticulturist Event,” he says. 

AGMARDT General Manager Malcolm Nitschke says AGMARDT recognises the Young Horticulturist competition truly reflects the diversity of the industry with competing representatives from various sectors.

“AGMARDT is proud to be a significant sponsor of this event, which is a great way to demonstrate to the wider public that there are opportunities for employment and career growth within the horticultural sectors.”

The 2019 Young Horticulturist event’s supporters are: Primary ITO, Horticentre Trust, Bayer Crop Science, and Trillian Trust.  The affiliated supporters are: ANZ, AIM Services, ICL Speciality Fertilisers, Massey University, Safeworx, NZ Gardener, NZ Winegrowers, NZ Hothouse Group, Norwood and Horticulture New Zealand. The friends of the competition are: MIT School of Primary Industries, Cornwall Park Trust Board, Auckland Botanical Gardens, RNZIH, KiwiFlora Limited, Bev McConnell, NZIAHS, Aorangi Merchants and Hill Laboratories.

Contact details:
Hayley Govorko - Event Manager 0272 100 736 event.manager@younghort.co.nz
Elle Anderson - Chair for the RNZIH Education Trust that manages the 2019 Young Horticulturist competition elle@younghort.co.nz

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Simon Gourley
Young Horticulturist 2019

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Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition offers a fantastic range of prizes and awards. Check these out.


If you wish to make a one off gift to the competition or set up a regular donation/ gift by automatic payment, the RNZIH Education Trust (Charities Registration # CC20817) bank account details are as follows:

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