Meet the Kiwicado Team

Donald Cameron Rodee

Owner & CEO

I have been around avocados since a pre-teen year retrieving fruit for his mother that referred to them as “alligator Pears”. Those were the green skin variety Fuertes and Beacon varieties picked with a picking pole after climbing well above the ladder height.

In 1975 I returned to the avocado industry in Fallbrook California owning several groves and marketing through a co-op Calavo Growers the world leader in those years. The challenges were numerous and with a great manager and close by staffing of Cal State Riverside Horticultural Staff we were one of the top yielding groves in Southern California.

My boldest venture in avocados was Matahui Avocado Resort Spa near Katikati, New Zealand. From that outstanding operation I developed into an exporter of avocados to Australia that has been an overwhelming success. With no question in the minds of the produce brokers in Australia we provide the best quality and best service to their hungry market.

With the huge demand around the world we recently established further resources to many other international markets. Drawing on the best team that could be assembled we strive to bring Hass avocados to everyone with our export team.

We travel to the customer to show them our process from growing the avocados ourselves and exclusively nurturing every aspect of the delivery of our product. We are hands on people and we are proud of our perfected delivery to the sophisticated customer.

Cherie (Meehwa) Lee

Comptroller & CFO

I have a keen eye for the display presentation of avocados with a focus on my championship guacamole. I like to demonstrate at retail stores how to get the most out of avocados and talk about all the various combinations of real lime juice enhancement for flavoring along with cilantro and peppers ranging in spiciness suitable to many different pallets. BLTs with avocado on lightly toasted sour dough French bread could replace any meal at our home.

We want the consumer to have fun while eating one of the best super foods of the world. As diced avocado is irresistible to the highchair infant, you are giving that child the best start in nitration. Every meal can look and feel better with the fusion cuisine that avocados provide for every culture. Let me come show you all the novel ways I use avocados.

Tony Sinkovich

Director Sales & Marketing

Tony has had the fruit and produce industry in his blood from an early age as his family have been involved in the fruitgrowing industry since the early 1900s. After qualifying at University in 1977 with a BComm his father died and there started his orcharding experience with pipfruit, stonefruit and grapes. After the land was sold to developers he embarked on his overseas experience in London working for Ernst and Young as a Senior Audit manager before returning to NZ in the early 80s working as a Field Representative for Turners and Growers Exports specialising in strawberries and kiwifruit. In 1989 he progressed into the sales and marketing arena with Stonefruit, Kiwifruit and Avocados his main product lines.

He worked there until 1999 where he moved into the heart of the Avocado Region with Global Fresh NZ as their marketing manager and he spent over 14 years managing the avocado business for exports to USA, Australia, Asia and Europe. He has served on various industry boards including as an Export Director in both the Avocado Industry Council and Kiwifruit to Australia Product Group. The latter Product Group he served as Chairman for 12 years.

His marketing skills were used in the Australian Retail trade with Coles Supermarkets in introducing the “Ripe when Dark” Avocado Programme which saw a major swing in sales uplift in all states. Prepack programmes were used extensively when fruit sizes were small with great success.

He has been instrumental in encouraging NZ Avocados to test the boundaries with shipments to the UK France and the Netherlands. This has lead the way for NZ Avocados to be sent to other destinations utilising some of the CA work in these European shipments.

His attention to the quality assurance issue with avocados is well known where he has been contracted by leading Avocado Handler, Mission Avocados to work in Mexico and Peru to assist in establishing protocols in pre and post harvest handling.

It is his knowledge and experience of the overseas markets that is his strength and with the many changes occuring in these markets, Tony has been able to meet the coming challenges that presents itself in the Avocado World.


Emma Taylor

Kiwifruit Production Manager

Emma was brought up in England and began a horticultural career in the nursery and propagation industry working with a wide range of ornamental and fruiting plants.

Emigrating to New Zealand in 2000 she began working in the kiwifruit industry grafting new and existing varieties in both nursery and orchard situations.

After moving to Katikati 9 years ago she has been involved in all aspects of kiwifruit growing both pre- and post-harvest through orchard and packhouse roles.

Emma has a passion for grafting and has been involved with the development of the Matahui kiwifruit blocks over the last 5 years. Now full time at Matahui she is enjoying grafting, vine-training, developing and maintaining the existing and new blocks with the team and all their dogs!

Caitlin Merriman

Orchard Worker

I was born and breed here in the area of the Bay Of Plenty, Katikati and am the youngest on the team. I have been a casual worker over the past five years commuting back and fourth between studies and orchard work here at Matahui. I have a variety of skills that I am able to pursue on the orchard to get this place looking spick and span. I enjoy working with all members of the team and look forward to what the future has to offer for us here at Matahui Avocado Resort and Spa.

Liana Ashford-Jones

Orchard Worker

Liana  has not only been a grove person since her teens and knows the grove like the back of her hand. Liana operates a hydraladder during harvest, mowing the grasses that never stop growing and other day to day jobs that are required on a Grove of this size.

This season she has taken on the export responsibilities mostly focused on Australia and Avocado Industry Council meetings in the absence of Don Rodee or our export consultant Tony Sinkovich.

Liana has acted as a trainee supervisor of the entire operation on occasions when others had to be at world conferences and spends time in Australia working with the distributors that market our fruit in Sydney and Brisbane.

Phil Merriman

Manager – Matahui Avocado Spa Resort

Phil is a second-generation Horticulturist and has been living in Katikati most of his life. Phil has well over 20 years’ experience in the horticultural scene, from having own his own orchard and having been involved at Matahui Orchard since day one shows you the loyalty of the man.

Phil took over the reins of Matahui Orchard as the manager in 2010 and with his experience of being a leading hand for the two biggest mining companies in New Zealand, which saw him manage 30 men on night shift underground help in his success of the role. He has successfully kept crops numbers and health of the plants in the fore running of the business.

Phil is the first person to be call if there is an issue with the orchard and he is reliable and eager to be of help. He has shown his leadership skills and goal achieving abilities by running a 4-person crew for the whole of the orchard. His network and social skills put him well above the rest and is a very invaluable person to the running of this business.

Steven Merriman

Assistant Manager – Matahui Avocado Resort Spa

Being a third-generation horticulturist Steven has grown up being surround by Avocados and has 12 years plus working in the horticultural industry. He brings knowledge and passion with his diploma of horticulture from Lincoln University, which helps him solve issues that may occur to the plant and soil.

Steven has been at the Matahui site since 2004 and has helped with orchard develop and harvest throughout it all. Steven is up for any challenge as seen by his willingness to take on any task, be it installing security systems to running a fully automated irrigation system and general workings of the orchard.

We rely on Steven to make sure the orchard is safe after hours by being on call and at the ready if an incident should occur.