11 Nov 2016

High hopes for citrus

From Country Life, 9:25 pm on 11 November 2016

A Māori Land Trust in Gisborne is looking at expanding its citrus crops due to market demand and aims to employ its stakeholders on the orchards.

Wi Pere Trust staff Loni Lardelli Wayne Hall

Wi Pere Trust staff Loni Lardelli and Wayne Hall Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Wi Pere Trust is predicting strong growth for its horticultural operations in Gisborne.

At present, the Trust has 100 hectares of citrus, kiwifruit and persimmons but operations manager Wayne Hall says in the next few years that will grow to 150 hectares. He says emphasis is being put on crops like navel oranges and kiwifruit which have export opportunities and means they won't have to rely on the local market.

Wayne Hall says the Trust is working with a Gisborne exporter who is keen to send local citrus to Japan and China. "Our production will increase four fold. We are ramping up... aiming to have 25% of our citrus crop exportable. "

Wi Pere Trust's new plantings

Wi Pere Trust's new plantings Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Loni Lardelli is a Wi Pere shareholder, who also works on the orchard. He laughingly claims he's "worked like a dog", but he loves it. With the increased plantings of navel oranges in particular he says there are a lot of job opportunities, but attracting young people is hard.

"They want to be lawyers or doctors, rather than working on the land, but maybe it will change now because of the things we are doing.

"If people would turn up every day and say 'try me out', they'll get a job. But too often they want it to fall in their lap. The drive is not there."

Wayne Hall says in years to come Wi Pere will also want people with marketing skills.

"We're in an exciting phase for the horticulture side, for staff."

Eddie Collins Wi Pere Trust

Eddie Collins Wi Pere Trust Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Another orchard manager, Eddie Collins, says growing trees is wonderful; far better than working with cows and they don't answer back.

He says seeing the fruit picked and sent away in big bins is extremely satisfying.

"Sometimes in the cold and wet and you're in the orchard you wonder why you do it. But it's the opposite in summer. It's beautiful and you're sunbathing while you're working."

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