Horticultural Hub boosted in Wairoa

Added 3 months ago

Rex Graham, the former chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is pleased to see further progress in developing the horticultural potential of Wairoa, particularly on Maori land.

MPI has granted $440k to the Wairoa Horticultural Hub, taking the total of grants and loan funding the hub has received to $2.7m.

This latest tranche of funding will be used to convert mostly Māori land into high value horticultural crops, mainly apples.

It’s the key to a sustainable future for the region, he says. Speaking about afforestation trends in the district, Graham says that conversion of too many sheep and beef farms into forestry puts the viability of the meat works operation at risk.

“Wairoa needs economic diversification, and the work that the Wairoa Horticulture Hub is doing is going in the right direction to lead to that.

Rex Graham, the former chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council

Rex Graham, the former chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council

“The WHH is on the right track with the right set up, the right variety in Envy – the most desired apple in China, and the right strategic partner in T&G.“

The region has huge potential to be an early season producer of pip fruit.

Graham went to primary school in Wairoa, and has a long interest in horticulture in the district.  When at the helm of HBRC, he was instrumental in driving economic development for Wairoa. HBRC jointly put up funding alongside the Wairoa district council, and post treaty settlement group Tātau Tātau.

The vision at the time was to put premium varieties in, and have supply chains to market, so that the growers weren’t just isolated there. They have done a particularly good job of partnering with T&G, Graham says.

He says over the long term establishing a centralised post-harvest facility in the district would add real value, employment opportunities and encourage smaller land holders to grow crops.

“Horticulture offers superior returns. There are lots of farmers that could diversify and convert some of their flat land into orchards, and there’s lots of interest in it too. The opportunities are there for owners of Maori land to diversify, and as much as possible, use someone else’s capital.”

Graham points to Hastings’ Omahu Road, home to a huge number of businesses that support the horticultural sector.

“Horticulture attracts a lot of cluster industries like irrigation. There’s opportunity for more electricians, more plumbers and supporting industries. It’s not just the direct activity.

“The objective is a diverse economy, with horticulture, forestry, sheep and beef, and tourism, all playing a part. Wairoa’s sustainability is improved when there’s diversity.”

He notes that it will take time to prove that Wairoa can do this, but is very pleased at the latest development. “It’s exciting, and if the varieties work in the climate, it will be a big thing for the region.”


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