It was not an easy season for any sector of the fruit industry in Hawke's Bay. The Covid lockdown was handled by employers who ensured workers kept to their bubbles. The effects of the lockdown have continued as many RSE workers from around the Pacific have not been able to get home since.
Summer fruit grower Brain Fulford, Hastings, said he had 12 ni-Vanuatu workers who were unable to get home until last weekend, when he hired a minibus to get them to Whenuapai on Sunday. His staff were part of an estimated 4500 ni-Vanuatu people nationwide taken home by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in its biggest airlift in 25 years.
Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Harold earlier this year and the workers were stuck here knowing their villages had been devastated. However, there are up to 500 people from Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea still here.
Their return is uncertain because their governments have closed their borders. However, the drought which has caused so much stress to pastoral farming has been better news for the industry. Although the apple industry is expanding rapidly there was plenty of labour and picking and packing continued during lockdown.
Gary Jones, of Apples and Pears New Zealand, said the crop appeared to be another record at 400,000 tonnes. It is still early in the selling season but prices could have eased as the Covid outbreak made selling fruit harder work.
Hawke's Bay Fruit growers' Association president Ben James told nzherald.co.nz that fruit quality was good, helped by the dry weather which also made picking easier. "However, it's clear the trees have been under stress during the last 12 months."
Water Security Economic Impact Assessment
The Hawke's Bay Region Water Security Economic Impact Assessment was presented to a full meeting of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council on Wednesday. Regional Council chairman Rex Graham said the report was "sobering".
The report focuses on the future economic impacts felt directly in the TANK (Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū) and Tukituki catchments by the primary sector of the economy, which includes horticulture and fruit growing, sheep, beef, deer and other livestock and grain farming.
It predicts that a "do nothing" scenario in terms of water security and climate change post 2060 will have a significant impact on regional GDP and community wellbeing.
Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Tom Kay said the statement released by the council after Thursday's meeting "failed to acknowledge that there are numerous other things Hawke's Bay could do to address the impacts of climate change".
He said moving to more regenerative models of agriculture, restoring wetlands, lowland forests, and riparian vegetation to store water and carbon in our soils, among other initiatives.
"The report HBRC commissioned makes no reference to these options," Kay said. "It also fails to mention that many of the land uses we're trying to 'protect' [like] dairy, beef, horticulture, through water storage investigations like the ones the council is commissioning, contribute significantly to climate change.