Seventy new jobs for Central Hawke’s Bay as OIO approves farm conversion to huge apple orchard

Hawke’s Bay Regional chairman Rex Graham said a huge orchard in Central Hawke’s Bay was a phenomenally good idea

Article published on the NZ Herald website, 12 April 2019

A largely European-owned company will invest millions in developing an apple orchard in Central Hawke’s Bay, after getting approval from the Overseas Investment Office.

Two parcels of land were purchased by Craigmore Sustainables – Springhill in Central Hawke’s Bay and Glenpark Orchard in Gisborne.

The Central Hawke’s Bay project approved by the OIO is a 130ha development which will be converted from pastoral farming and annual cropping into an apple orchard.

The new orchard is expected to be in full production by mid-2020 and is set to have 73 full time employees when it is fully operational.

Craigmore Sustainables chief executive Che Charteris said its plans, an investment that totalled $52m, was a part of a push to expand in key regional regions.

“Our strategy is to build a diversified business of the best of New Zealand orchards across a range of fruits for which New Zealand already has an established reputation and markets, including kiwifruit, apples and wine grapes, along with emerging crops such as cherries, citrus and avocados.

“With these acquisitions, Craigmore Sustainables will be converting more pastoral land into orchards than anyone else in Aotearoa, bringing with it a surge in regional jobs and exports across key regions.”

To combat the lack of labour that Hawke’s Bay faces during the picking season, Craigmore plans to mirror the approach of one of its other businesses, Coxco, when sourcing labour for its various orchard properties.

Coxco is a Gisborne-based company managed by Craigmore that employs around 400-500 staff over the course of a year, mainly in seasonal-casual horticultural positions.

They are a Recognised Seasonal Employer, but look to employ mostly locals and more than 70 per cent are from Ngati Porou.

Hawke’s Bay Regional chairman Rex Graham said a huge orchard in Central Hawke’s Bay was a phenomenally good idea.

“I was actually one of the first to plant an orchard down there and to see such a large scale development to come in is great,” Graham said.

“I think they will do a great job, we will be using less water, creating more jobs, building our economy and it’s in a location we want to grow.

“It’s a fantastic idea.”

Craigmore required OIO approval, having been backed by foreign investors for the project.

The investors are from Hong Kong (29.87 per cent), Germany (29.05 per cent), United Kingdom (28.49 per cent), Finland (6.81 per cent), United States (3.52 per cent) and New Zealand (1.72 per cent).

Approval comes after having been declined approval only just last year to buy just over 11ha of land in Te Puke, most of which was in green kiwifruit, and the remainder in avocados.

Craigmore had wanted to convert all kiwifruit to organic production for supply to Zespri, including the conversion of some of the Hayward trees to the gold variety.

The Overseas Investment Office assesses applications from overseas investors to make sure they meet the criteria laid out in the Overseas Investment Act 2005.

Overseas people and organisations wanting to invest in New Zealand’s sensitive land, significant business assets and fishing quota must get consent before they do so.

Craigmore Sustainables was started in 2008 by Canterbury businessmen and farmers, Forbes Elworthy and Mark Cox.