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Tairāwhiti Gisborne’s key industries are finding global markets.

Tairāwhiti Gisborne has an abundance of natural resources. We sit on thousands of acres of flat, fertile land surrounded by hills and the Pacific Ocean. This has created a stunning micro-climate with some of the best soil and growing conditions in the world.

This is one reason why our main industries are enjoying a sustained period of growth, which means opportunities for investment and export. Those four key industries are:

  • Horticulture
  • Forestry
  • Agriculture
  • Tourism

Thanks to Chorus, Tairāwhiti Gisborne also now has ultra-fast broadband. This means our city has the infrastructure capacity and resilience to support data centres, business processing centres and associated business support services, without the overheads and labour constraints of larger cities like Auckland. See a map of which areas are already using fibre.

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Macadamias about to take off

It might be a hard nut to crack if you want to eat it, but as an emerging industry in Tairawhiti Gisborne the horticultural scene is taking to macadamias very easily.

As Torere Macadamia Orchard owner Vanessa Hayes says, "this region will be the macadamia capital of NZ and it's about to snowball."

Three major plantings of macadamia trees are already in around Tairawhiti Gisborne, with plenty more planned. The crop is very low maintenance, uses no chemicals, sprays or irrigation and the end product is very healthy for you, with zero cholesterol, lots of antioxidants and has even been linked to weight loss.

Vanessa chose Tairawhiti Gisborne as this is where the biggest and best growing areas are.

Nuhiti Q is the first Maori Corporation already on board and they have taken the next step as well by appointing an orchard manager trained by Torere Macadamias. He is experienced now and ready to help other land owners start new plantations.

Local grape growers Duncan and Gwen Bush at Makaraka, as well as another couple recently returned from the UK and now in Ormond, have both chosen macadamias as their primary crop; planting their trees in 2017. 

As the volume of the nuts gowns increases, new products will follow like macadamia milk, and macadamia oil to be used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.

As the only macadamia variety researcher in New Zealand, Vanessa got the attention of the Country Calendar team in 2017.

So convinced were the Country Caledar crew that Tairawhiti Gisborne was going to be boom town for macadmaias, a follow up episode has already been booked in three years.

Long journey, self-funded, but suddenly coming to fruition.

What started out as a hobby 30 years ago quickly became more as Vanessa took over the macadamia research from Hort Research and started importing macadamia varieties to find the best dropping varieties to grow over a range of locations in NZ.

Research continues with exciting plans for the future

At the moment Vanessa is looking into the anti-bacterial and bio-active properties of the macadamia nut and using the oil from the nuts for medicinal as well as cosmetic purposes.

"We have the largest nursery with exclusive rights for the best producing home and commercial varieties and supply 95% of the macadamia plant market in NZ.

"With my research I’ve been able to identify varieties for early, mid-season or late season harvest. This helps to cater for farmers who want their land to have dual uses. 

"The focus on this region is to build a new industry totally inclusive of growing the trees, factory processing and adding value with healthy food, medicinal and cosmetic products developed here in Tairawhiti Gisborne.

Right now the future plans are to establish a grower co-operative and build a factory and food facility to process the nuts in Tairawhiti Gisborne with a tourism café on location.

Rich pickings

Regarding horticulture, we’re well positioned. Our neighbours in the Bay of Plenty are fast running out of land to grow kiwifruit and avocados. Marlborough will soon be at capacity for grapes, while other regions have invested heavily in dairy. But we still have plenty of room to grow. Our clean water, healthy young soil, reasonable rainfall and temperate climate make us one of the strongest growing regions in the country.

James Williams is the owner-operator of Williams Brothers and Sherwood Agriculture Ltd – the largest citrus grower in Tairāwhiti Gisborne and second largest in New Zealand, with 200 acres of oranges, mandarins and lemon trees. Tairāwhiti Gisborne supplies 85 percent of the nation’s citrus.

James visited California to investigate how the biggest citrus producer in the world operated on such a large scale. “To my surprise, I discovered we produce 20 percent more per hectare.”

James and Kristina Williams' business is one of New Zealand's largest citrus producers

Kerry Hudson has been digging the dirt on soil around Tairāwhiti Gisborne for 34 years. He is the Gisborne District Council team leader for land and soil. He credits the special soil in Tairāwhiti Gisborne to a combination of things:

  • reasonable rainfall
  • an excellent climate
  • soil that has a good depth with a combination of silts, clays and sand
  • free draining soil
  • mineral rich mud stone – papa – which slides down the hill country to enrich the flats.

You can see more detail about Tairāwhiti’s soils at this Landcare Research site.

A paddock of broccoli is inspected by Dr Stuart Davis, former technical director at LeaderBrand.

A trio of successes

One of the keys players in horticulture is Gisborne-based LeaderBrand — New Zealand's leading grower of broccoli and iceberg lettuce. Chief executive Richard Burke says the natural advantages Gisborne offers means LeaderBrand can crop all year round.

“The quality of our land and water resource stand us up amongst the best growing regions in the world and our climate, whilst we can have difficult periods, delivers when compared to other regions,” says Richard.

 But this is not the only reason for LeaderBrand’s success, says founder Murray McPhail.

It’s also the people. “We are fortunate to have a phenomenal team of talented, dedicated people who are out there every day – rain, hail or shine making it all happen.” That workforce peaks at 500 during busy periods.

Apples are also on the menu in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. Kaiaponi Farms, established in 1985, is the region’s largest apple grower, with 119 hectares based in Manutuke, Waerenga a Hika and Ormond. Apples are grown on about 70 hectares of Kaiaponi land and 23 hectares of lease land. Gold kiwifruit is another key crop.

Kaiaponi contract packs for large distributors including Zeafruit and Turners & Growers.  

A fine drop

Probably the most famous crop to come from Tairāwhiti’s Gisborne is wine, especially Chardonnay. With six globally recognised wineries, we have become an established contributor to the growing wine industry.

What’s less well known is that the power behind many other Kiwi vineyards is Gisborne-based Riversun, New Zealand's leading supplier of certified grafted grapevines.

“We are blessed with virgin soils, clean air, pure rainfall and really smart people," says Riversun founder and director Geoff Thorpe.

In 1998, New Zealand’s fledgling wine export industry was earning $100 million a year. Today, it is over $1.5 billion. Riversun grafts over 2.5 million grapevines a year and demand for New Zealand wine continues to enjoy a decade-long compound growth rate of 14 percent.

Sensing this potential for growth, Geoff sought to create a library of vine using the best of the best from around the world. The result is a veritable taonga of global wines. Vines have travelled from Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, Canada, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

After two years in Riversun’s quarantine facility, the vines are planted into Gisborne soil. Today there are almost 250 selections grown on the property, made up of over 50 varieties (half new to the industry and imported by Riversun) and over 200 clones.

All Riversun properties are flanked by immaculately-trimmed lavender hedges and the ends of the vine rows are planted with rosemary. Why? “Because the bees need all the help they can get!” says Geoff.

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f you want a good example of how much forestry has boomed in Tairāwhiti over the last ten years, have a look at the increase in the number of logs loaded onto ships at our port bound for overseas ports.

In 2011 and 2012, the value of forest production, excluding processing, from 154,000 hectares of forests in the region was $225 million. By 2020 this is expected to increase to $373 million. By 2020, there are also expected to be 1,800 more jobs coming on stream in the forestry sector.

Around 90 percent of all those logs exported will be unprocessed, but that could change with the right local investment. Currently there’s only one mill processing 10 to 15 percent of the region's production. But the forecasted increase in harvests could supply up to four sawmills, which leaves ample room for a new processing company to take advantage of a booming forest supply and Tairāwhiti Gisborne’s skilled workforce.

To support the output of logs, the National Land Transport Programme is investing in improvements in links to the port. In addition, KiwiRail recently announced resumption of rail links to Napier from Wairoa.

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Tairāwhiti Gisborne has a strong agriculture economy based on its highly fertile land, with many of the beef and sheep farmers in the hill country. Thanks to this fertile land, the region only has a small number of dairy farms left. A good example is Whangara Farms, a 5,600 hectare farm that runs 30,000 sheep and 5,000 Angus-cross cattle. The partnership expects to have 60,000 stock units by 2021.

Another example is Ovation New Zealand, which processes and provides world class lamb for around the world. Its manager Kevin Morrell says over the 14 years he has been here, they have increased their capacity and appreciate the awesome support from local farmers. New people are hired every year, especially during the busy season when 370 people are hired. It reverts to about half of that for six months of the year.

Gisborne has a long and successful track record of sheep and beef farming.

All these extra meat, vegetables and grains need to be processed.

Tairāwhiti Gisborne’s abundant supply of fresh food creates downstream opportunities in food and beverage processing and manufacturing. The region is already home to processing facilities with LeaderBrand, Cedenco and Corsons, which is the largest maize milling company in Australasia.

Commercial and industrial space is still available at highly competitive rates, making this region appealing for anyone who wants to invest and take advantage of the region’s growing horticulture and agriculture output.

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Sometimes regarded as Aotearoa’s best kept secret, Tairāwhiti Gisborne is growing its tourism base. We enjoyed nearly 1.3 million visitor nights in 2015, a 2.4 percent increase on the previous year, while total visitor spending for the year ended September 2016 was $150 million.

From this comes a direct flow-on of employment and business opportunities. Tairāwhiti Gisborne is getting noticed and there are plenty of gaps for people who would like to work in the tourism and hospitality industry here.

Traditionally, we have been the sunny seaside camping spot for families who return every year because they love it so much. But with so many wine, food and music festivals on the offer and world-class vineyards and restaurants, Tairāwhiti Gisborne is expanding its demographic at both ends. Tourists include older ‘cultural explorers’ who are seeking culturally stimulating, luxurious holidays and ‘young adventure seekers’ who are looking for authentic adventures.

Both groups have been identified by Air New Zealand as sought after tourism prospects. The launch of the First Light campaign (of which this site is an example) is part of $1 million investment into a national marketing effort.

More than 17,000 people attended Rhythm and Vines in 2016.

A good example of what can be achieved is the New Year’s music festival masterpiece that is Rhythm and Vines.

An 18-25 age group are the main festival-goers, with the majority from Auckland. They stay in our region for around a week, boost our visitor numbers by over 10,000 and have given Gizzy a bit of street-cred for hosting the largest New Year’s Eve festival in the country.

Activate’s Steve Breen says the region needs to build on this success.