Storms destroy Central Otago, Nelson fruit just weeks after Aussie growers hit

By Te Ao - Māori News

Central Otago cherry growers are starting to assess how many millions of dollars of crops have been lost after 36 hours of heavy rain in recent days destroyed fruit in what had been a bumper crop.

Ironically, the destruction comes only two weeks after cherry regions across Australia were hit by heavy rain, hail and humidity, ruining large amounts of fruit just before Christmas.

The Orange region in New South Wales has been declared an agricultural natural disaster zone as the damage bill from a massive hail storm reached $4 million.

Cherry, flower, apple and stone fruit crops throughout that region were damaged extensively. In other growing areas production had been reduced due to drought.

In central Otago growers have not made full assessments yet and further rain is forecast.

Central Otago produces about 90% of New Zealand’s cherry exports, which were worth $84.1million in the 2017-18 year and $66.2 million in 2018-19.

Motueka hit earlier

In addition, last weekend millions of dollars worth of fruit were ruined by a hailstorm that hit the Nelson region.

A Motueka fruit growers association said some growers had lost their entire crop. Apples, hops, kiwifruit and vegetable crops had all been hit hard.

The association said so many crops had been affected that it would alleviate the labour shortage.

Races cancelled

Meanwhile, the popular annual Glenorchy Races were cancelled for the first time in 59 years because of the heavy rain.

The races, due to be held on Saturday beside Lake Wakatipu, 45 minutes from Queenstown, were delayed till Sunday but then cancelled as the track was considered still too unsafe.

Up to 80 horses take part in the event run each year by the Glenorchy Rugby Club.

Many roads were closed in the past few days due to flooding in Otago and Southland and some campers were stranded for several days.

Severe weather also affected the Bay of Plenty.