Putting down roots

Why James and Kristina call Tairāwhiti Gisborne home.

Sitting on their covered deck, overlooking hectares of citrus lemon trees with a glimpse of the Pacific beyond, it’s easy to see why James and Kristina Williams think Tairāwhiti Gisborne is a little slice of heaven on Earth. The orchardists, and parents of three young children, live on a property that’s been in the family for five generations.

 

James and Kristina Williams.

Situated in Muriwai, south of Tairāwhiti Gisborne, the orchard is one of five blocks that makes Williams Brothers the largest private citrus suppliers in New Zealand. 

“Not many people know that Gisborne produces 85% of all New Zealand’s citrus,” says James. “We have perfect conditions for growing. Long hot summers (2200 sunshine hours!) and temperate winters. Plus there’s the soil.”

That soil is the rich, alluvial flood plain that makes a mockery of the name Poverty Bay. The title was first bestowed by a misguided Captain Cook after he failed to restock the Endeavour’s supplies back in 1769.

In fact, Tairāwhiti Gisborne is a veritable Eden, producing vegetables, citrus, apples, grapes, maize, sweetcorn and stone fruits. LeaderBrand, another Tairāwhiti Gisborne firm, is one of the largest suppliers of vegetables in the South Pacific.

“I’ve just been to California, which is the major citrus region in the USA. Tairāwhiti Gisborne soils are about 20% more productive,” reckons James, whose father first experimented with planting trees 40 years ago. And there’s potential for more.

According to the Gisborne District Council, significant portions of suitable land remain untapped for horticulture.

But it’s not just business that keeps the Williams here. Their sense of community is strong. Each morning their kids are picked up at the gate by a great-auntie who takes them to school.

When a fire broke out in the family home, it was neighbours who raced to their aid – as well as the Tairāwhiti Gisborne rescue helicopter, “We’ll be donating generously to that fundraiser!” Kristina says).

Summers spent in the pool, catching a wave with her daughter, seeing locals rally around a wetlands project, or fundraising for the local sports team – these are ties that bind. 

 

My brother recently visited from New York City and he said ‘you’ve found it!’ and I think he’s right.