Nga¯ti Hine di­ver­si­fies with or­chard pur­chase

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

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.

PIC­TURE / PETER DE GRAAF

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.

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