Avocado and kiwifruit orchards are being planted in numbers not seen since 1988

Avocado and kiwifruit orchards are being planted in numbers not seen since 1988 - when the devastation of Cyclone Bola forced many to convert to dairy.

Dairy farmers Holly and Jarrod Murdoch's leap into kiwifruit came via a knock at the door from a representative from industry giant Apata.

Holly said the Bay of Plenty company's approach piqued her husband's interest in the fruit.

She said developing another income stream was also a motivating factor.

The Murdoch's have retained an interest in the 26-hectare kiwifruit orchard at Waitotara and have been integral in the conversion of another 40 hectares at Mangamahu and Westmere, employing 20 people in the process. reports www.rnz.co.nz

Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is chair of Ngati Ruanui Holdings - the iwi's commercial arm. It planted a two-hectare blueberry pilot orchard in covered tunnels at the old Patea School which has already had one harvest.

Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi spotted an opportunity. "Due to climate change the conditions in Taranaki are going to change and in parts be somewhat comparative to growing parts of Tauranga.

"And to a large degree we can manipulate the conditions in the tunnels. The whole way the blueberries are grown is quite futuristic."

The pilot has lead to a $2 million investment up the road in Hāwera.

"We've bought about 35 hectares in Turuturu Road and have now scaled up and have got 5 hectares there for the big orchard and part of it is that we have become part of a collective of other iwi which is known as Miro Berries, so that's how we've been able to scale up."

New Plymouth contractor Matt Hareb is investing $5 million converting a 30-hectare diary block at Brixton, near Waitara, into an avocado orchard.

"Well in six months' time it will be a bit different we'll have at least 10 hectares of avocados in. They'll be 4500 avocados and each will avocado tree will have its own initial shelter, so there'll be something like five pegs per avocado tree so that's 5000 per 1000 avocado trees so there's a fair few to go in."

Hareb already has another 4500 avocado trees ordered for the following year and is converting a 30 hectare dairy block into an avocado orchard at Brixton near Waitara.

Venture Taranaki chief executive Justine Gilliland said research had identified more than 200,000 hectares in the region has been identified as suitable for horticulture. 

"In terms of avocado, for example, we've got 6000 trees going into the ground this season and 10,000 next season, so that's expanding quite significantly on the avocado presence we already have.

"And we've got a new kiwifruit orchard down in Waitotara and there are other landowners exploring kiwifruit."


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