8 Sep 2021

Flower growers forced to dump truckloads of flowers in bin

9:18 pm on 8 September 2021

Spring has sprung at the same time as level 4, forcing Auckland's flower growers to bin months of their work.

Sisters Nicola and Jenna of Brite Bloom Flowers

Sisters Nicola and Jenna of Brite Bloom Flowers Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Under alert level 4 they are not able to sell or distribute their goods but can not simply stop their flowers growing.

They are desperately calling for the Government to allow them to operate with contactless deliveries or to be allowed to sell to other essential businesses.

"So this part here we have waited for months for this to get to this stage and we will start pulling this out on Friday this week.

"And in about two weeks it will all be done and dusted, this is another lot of wasted flowers. Good for nothing."

Sisters Nicola and Jenna showed Checkpoint the reality they had been facing since lockdown began more than three weeks ago.

They have been running Brite Blooms Flowers for twenty years together in Kumeū mostly growing Gerberias, Dianthus Green Tricks and Matthiolas .

Every few days they are dumping van loads full of crops in a compost heap - that would usually be sent off to auction three times a week.

"Over 10,000 stems so far and the next week will be thousands more, so if we went longer than the four weeks will lose well over 20,000 stems."

Financially they will never recover.

"We're looking at over $50,000 [dollars], and that's only if we come out of lockdown when you know next week though, it's gonna be more than that.

"There's a lot of costs out of that 50,000 only a small amount of that is actually profit. Huge amount is all your fertilizing your heating your seed your cost of growing it."

It was taking a toll.

"We are really struggling to keep our morale up and keep coming in here every day and dealing with this, it's a real struggle and it's starting to take its toll on our families watching us have to deal with this, our children are seeing it and yeah it's tough."

Along with dozens of other growers - they are asking for change.

"If we could safely sell contactless whether it be local or whether it could be to essential operators like supermarkets, fruit stalls, you know we'll never be able to recover everything, but if we can sell some of our products, otherwise it would have to be compensation for what we've lost."

For smaller growers like Hands in the Dirt run by Aila Morgan Guthrie in Ahuora - it is a similar story.

In a video posted to social media yesterday she showed a barn full of flowers that were going to waste.

"Here's all the flowers here. Yeah, so these ones here, we're binning. They're no longer any good you know we can't sell them.

"We can't give them away so they're about to go in the compost heap and then we just did another harvest today, at the moment I'm not too sure what I'm going to do with them right now.

"Don't really have any space in the house. So I'd say they'll just sit here for another week or so until they get chucked out. "

She usually relied on regulars and a few retail outlets all based in Auckland to purchase her stock.

She told Checkpoint it would be easy to deliver them contactless - like other businesses.

"Because a lot of us have our own delivery vehicles, so we can basically cut out the couriers and just go and supply direct to our customers.

"For me, flowers are soul food and it's been quite sad and the fact that I've had a lot of essential workers contacting me pleading for flowers.

"They just want something to kind of brighten their day or keep them optimistic and to not actually be allowed to give them that when I have the flowers has been quite upsetting, it feels quite unfair."

Now time was running out and so was space.

And because growers have to plant ahead - their summer crops were also in jeopardy, with items like seed mixes unavailable in level 4.

The next few weeks would be make or break for growers who are waiting on a response from Government with an online petition gaining traction.

In a statement, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it was unable to answer any specific questions relating to individual products or retailers.

"It is up to individual businesses to judge whether they meet the definition of an alert level 4 business or service."

"These rules are about reducing the risk of further transmission in the community. Having too many businesses operating during alert level 4 increases the odds of transmission with workers moving in an out of their home bubbles, connecting bubbles, and increasing the potential chain of infection. We encourage businesses to carefully consider whether they really need to be operating, and what the minimum level of operations required are."

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