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$39 million golden kiwi development at Patutahi on 76ha block

The development of the largest single kiwifruit orchard in Gisborne is under way.

Bay of Plenty’s Apata Group has started its $39 million development on 76 hectares of land on Tiniroto Road, west of the Waipaoa Bridge roundabout.

The Group bought the land from the Wi Pere Trust.

The development will be more than twice the size of any existing kiwifruit operation here.

Apata managing director Stuart Weston said Apata was last year on the hunt for a large parcel of land in the Poverty Bay/Hawke’s Bay region to establish a gold kiwifruit orchard.

The search led it to a 76-hectare property on Tiniroto Road that was either planted in citrus or was bare land previously used for grapes.

“There are significant commercial benefits in developing a large-scale gold kiwifruit orchard in this region,” Mr Weston said.

“The unique combination of soil composition and climate produces the industry’s largest source of KiwiStart fruit — fruit that can be picked very early in the season, which attracts significant premiums from Zespri (kiwifruit marketer).”

Apata secured the property through a tender process and in February called for investors to enable the property’s transition into a 62.3-canopy-hectare kiwifruit orchard.

'Within four weeks the offer was fully subscribed'“Within four weeks the offer was fully subscribed,” said Mr Weston.

“When combined with the forecast bank debt required, the total investment in the property by all parties will eventually sit at around $39 million over a three year period.

“This is a large project and one that will not only benefit Apata and investors, but also the Gisborne community through the creation of work and the cash injection into the local economy through our business partnerships.”

Apata orchards general manager Shaun Vickers said Apata had already removed more than 27 hectares of citrus and completed large-scale soil, irrigation and drainage works.

“We’ve worked, and continue to work closely, with LeaderBrand and AgFirst Gisborne, and will soon be looking to put in the structures required to support and protect the kiwifruit vines as they grow,” Mr Vickers said.

Work, however, came to a halt as one of the large machines was stopped in its tracks by a 32M totara tree buried 1.5m beneath the surface.

The tree was put in the care of local iwi.

“Apata has been delighted to learn the history of the tree and the land associated with the property,” said Mr Vickers.

“Having a link between the present and the future fills us all with a greater sense of responsibility towards what we are doing.

“That an inanimate object such as a buried tree should represent this is quite humbling.”

In full production, anticipated to be in four years, and based on current returns, the orchard will produce an estimated $10m worth of kiwifruit annually.

Apata will pack the harvested kiwifruit at its facilities in the Bay of Plenty.

SITE DEVELOPMENT: Bay of Plenty company Apata Group has started to develop Gisborne’s largest single kiwifruit block on land west of the Waipaoa River (pictured) on the Tiniroto Road. The 62.3 hectare, $39 million orchard will eventually generate an estimated $10 million a year in earnings. Picture supplied