Visit to vegetable grower gave better insight

A Levin-based vegetable grower says a site visit gave a group of movers and shakers valuable insight into the importance of growing crops in the region.

Woodhaven Gardens owner John Clarke said HortNZ people, councillors and staff at Horizons regional council, and some Horowhenua District councillors had a better understanding after visiting five growers in Horowhenua.

"The revenue from growing is fairly substantial for the region. Wages here at Woodhaven are $4 million a year, and 96-98 per cent of that would be spent in Horowhenua."

Clarke grows around 15 types of vegetable on 243 hectares, some of it owned, some leased land. Clarke said the two hardest things to get his head around were the marketplace and weather - both of which had a huge impact on Woodhaven's profit.

He has mostly Horowhenua-based staff, but has about 20 a year from Kiribati and Tonga on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

Clarke said about 60 per cent of the vegetables harvested went to the Auckland market, and most of the rest went to the lower North Island, with little produce going to the South Island.

Horizons science manager Dr Jon Roygard said the visit showed how the council was working with growers and was important for helping people understand the industry.

Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the region was the vegetable bowl for Wellington and horticulture was important for the whole of New Zealand.

"It's a huge economic driver for the communities of Otaki, Levin Foxton and Shannon in terms of employment."

The Government wants to see horticultural exports more than double by 2020.

Guy said there were fertile soils in Horowhenua and they needed to be looked after for the future through crop management and new technology.

"That's why the Government has just invested, in partnership with horticultural growers and the local council, $540,000 in kick starting the clean-up of Lake Horowhenua."

He said many farms they visited had run-off and aquifers that flowed into Lake Horowhenua.

"So this is probably a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to get it right, so future generations can enjoy what is an iconic lake."

Manawatu Standard