10 Feb 2022

Fruitful funding for Wairoa horticulture hub

5:10 pm on 10 February 2022

A Wairoa horticulture hub has been given a funding boost to help develop Māori whenua.

Apple picking in Hawkes Bay

Orchard crops planted in Wairoa late last year are attracting plenty of interest, a horticulture hub says. Photo: RNZ

The hub includes owners of more than 20 blocks of land, totalling 460 hectares.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has announced an extra $440,000 for soil feasibility studies and financial modelling.

Tātau Tātau horticulture manager Clare Easton hopes the hub will diversify rural employment options.

"The largest employer in Wairoa is the meatworks. There's been increasing afforestation [of sheep, beef and deer farms] across the region, so it poses quite a severe risk."

Horticulture is a billion-dollar industry in Hawke's Bay and the hub has big aspirations to "move down that value chain" not just "sending our fruit to Heretaunga".

"So [to] ultimately become a post-harvest operator and then ultimately have a Wairoa-specific variety of some sort, so maybe a Wairoa apple, where we're an exporter in our own right."

Easton said orchard crops planted in Wairoa late last year have become a "showhome" for landowners and "the interest has definitely grown".

"There's interest in horticulture, being able to see, touch, feel, what that land-use diversification looks like."

It is hoped these trees will produce fruit within three years.

In a media release, Minister O'Connor said the hub was "part of a long-term vision to harness the full benefits of the Wairoa district's soils, water and climate".

"The wider project has been supported by government investment of $875,000 through a Provincial Growth Fund grant and $1.4 million loan."

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