Tasman: Growers fear lasting impact of hailstorm

On Boxing Day Tasman, NZ was hit by very heavy hail and thunderstorms. In Motueka, these shredded vineyards, smashed greenhouses, dented and bruised apples, kiwifruit and hops and severely damaging buildings. Some say it was the worst hailstorm in living memory, in a region where recent summers have been marred by cyclones, floods and fires.

Moutere resident and Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said he was in no doubt about the lingering impact of what has just happened in his neighbourhood; he said the flow-on effects from what would have been thousands of people employed through the coming season - and the local business that supported the industry, many which had themselves been hit with water damage, would be ongoing.

"The real impact on the region will be over the next 12 months. What's happened with some crops like hops it has literally shredded all of the leaves, therefore the ability for the plant to carry on and flower has literally been eliminated."

For apples and kiwifruit, the hail marks the fruit and makes it unsuitable for high value, with the only option being juicing, he told rnz.co.nz. "That becomes almost unviable because you've got to pick the fruit and get it off the trees. The fruit will need to get off the trees but that can be hit off and then left to waste on the ground. These are the kinds of questions that growers will have to work through over the next week or so, they will need assistance to make the right decisions and they will need support."

According to some, the region would now be bracing itself for a huge hit to its economy, which in recent weeks was given a gold star for its performance in the latest quarterly figures from Westpac McDermott Miller.

Photo source: Dreamstime.com

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