Māori horticulture central to Wairoa rehabilitation

By Will Trafford

A government-backed horticulture project for Māori land is tipped to turn the Northern Hawke’s Bay region of Wairoa into an economic powerhouse.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced a $440,000 investment into the Wairoa Horticultural Hub, a consortium of 20 land bocks covering 460 hectares, the majority of which is Māori owned.

O’Connor says the pūtea will lift whenua productivity and boost jobs in the region, which has among the highest unemployment in the country at 11.2%.

“It’s part of a long-term vision to harness the full benefits of the Wairoa district’s soils, water and climate. It has the capacity to become a premier horticulture region.”

“Our investment is enabling landowners to get on-the-ground support to identify suitable parcels of land to be sustainably developed into horticulture," O’Connor said.

The investment is part of the government's Fit for a Better World development strategy, which aims to increase food and fibre sector exports by $44 billion over the next 10 years.

The key for the Wairoa investment is to convert enough land to justify the establishment of post-harvest cool store and processing facilities, which O'Connor says will be a game-changer.

“This will not only provide much-needed employment opportunities but also increase social and economic outcomes for the whole Wairoa district.”

Wairoa Horticultural Hub has been supported by government investment of $875,000 through a Provincial Growth Fund grant and a $1.4 million loan, which was used to produce high-value Apple varieties and prepare orchards, establish infrastructure and plant trees.

O’Connor says it’s anticipated the trees will start producing fruit within three years and reach full production in five to seven years.