Nga¯ti Hine diversifies with orchard purchase
A Far North iwi has bought another kiwifruit orchard as it continues to diversify from its forestry mainstay.
The handover of the 8ha orchard on State Highway 10, near Kerikeri, to Nga¯ti Hine Forestry Trust took place last week.
The orchard, which cost about $3 million and has been named Pukerau, will be leased to its former owner, Te Puke-based kiwifruit firm Seeka.
On top of the lease, the trust will be paid a share of the profits from the gold kiwifruit crop.
The trust now owns five kiwifruit orchards totalling 44ha, of which 27ha is under kiwifruit canopy.
The other four are off Kapiro Rd, just north of Kerikeri.
Speaking at the handover, chairman Pita Tipene recalled how the trustees were “flabbergasted” when the trust bought its first orchards in 2004. Despite the vine disease PSA and “a few speed bumps” since then, the decision had paid off, he said.
The Nga¯ti Hine Forestry Trust currently produced about 250,000 trays of kiwifruit a year, which would be boosted to 300,000 by the latest acquisition.
The trust owned the land, vines and infrastructure, while Seeka would manage the orchard, harvest the crop, and pack it at a new facility under construction on Waipapa Rd.
“But we also want to make sure we are building our own capacity and capability, and that means making it clear to Seeka we would like to see our own people employed over time, with the right training,” Mr Tipene said, adding that the trust wanted to diversify its assets away from forestry.
“So we got into horticulture, housing, manuka honey . . . We didn’t want to keep all our eggs in one basket.”
The purchase was funded by a mix of the trust’s own money and a partnership with Westpac bank.
Trust chief executive Huhana Lyndon said some people focused on Treaty settlements as if they were the be-all and end-all for Ma¯ori economic development.
“There’s a lot of talk about Treaty settlements as if they’re a silver bullet, but there’s a lot of work going on already.
“As Nga¯ti Hine we’re committed to supporting economic growth for the region, and pleased to have this partnership with Seeka,” she said.
Seeka investment manager Graham Cater said the company acquired the orchard when it bought Turners & Growers in April this year, but it had a different business model, preferring to work with partners who grew kiwifruit rather than owning land itself.
Seeka was currently spending close to $20 million on a major new packhouse on Waipapa Rd that was due to start operation at the end of February.
The company already had a partnership with Nga¯ti Hine through the trust’s other orchards, and had a cadetship programme offering training in horticulture through to management.
“That’s a big focus for Nga¯ti Hine, and we’re keen to talk to them about that,” Mr Cater said.
Nga¯ti Hine Forestry Trust’s five orchards are a mix of green and gold kiwifruit. Pukerau is Zespri G3 (Sun Gold), which currently fetches $10.46 a tray; the trust is currently converting its 8ha Te Ara Kopeka orchard from green to gold.
Nga¯ ti Hine Forestry Trust chairman Pita Tipene (left), Seeka senior orchard manager Denis Barker, trust chief executive Huhana Lyndon, trustee Hirini Henare, Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson and Far North deputy mayor Tania McInnes checking out crop at the iwi’s new kiwifruit orchard.