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Riversun seeks paved road

GEOFF Thorpe, the managing director of major vine nursery Riversun, has made an appeal to Gisborne District Council to have a short piece of road leading to the nursery sealed.

Speaking at the public forum of the council meeting, he told the council that the 2.5 kilometre unsealed section of road on Taihamiti Road, Whatatutu, led to the company’s 35-hectare field nursery.

This is where Riversun has all of its field nursery operations producing grafted grape vines that are supplied throughout New Zealand.

The nursery is frost protected and has about three million vines. In the peak season there are at least 100 vehicle movements a day and the dust raised by these is a health hazard for the three houses on the road, but also negatively affects the health of vines.

To put it in financial perspective it is equivalent to 50 percent of the total vineyard gate return in this region. There are about 2000 hectares of vines so that 35 hectares generated the same economic return as the rest of the vineyard activity.

It is similar to the entire production of the kiwifruit industry and larger than the entire citrus industry. Two cartons of grafted grape vines have the same value as a loaded logging truck, he said.

The business employs 40 permanent staff and about 160 seasonal workers, bringing in about $6 million in wages. About 95 percent of that income came from outside the district.

“We don’t smash up the roads, we don’t block up the rivers and beach with slash,” he said.

“We have been in operation for 33 years and have never come to the council requesting any kind of support or assistance in any way. It started as a one man band and we have built it and built it.”

In the past the council had offered water rate relief to one local company as they grew their business.

“We have looked at that and decided to get on with doing what we do, supplying the New Zealand industry with grafted grape vines.”

The company pays $40,000 a year in water rates as well as its rates, and are responsible corporate citizens, he said.

Asked by infrastructure committee chairman Graeme Thomson if the company was prepared to share the cost of sealing the road Mr Thorpe said they would talk about it.

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