Millions of tulips all but gone

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
 John van Eeden with the last of the tulips on his plantation outside Invercargill.
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
PRETTY PINK: John van Eeden with the last of the tulips on his plantation outside Invercargill.

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The stunning belts of brightly-coloured tulips seen in Southland over the past few weeks will soon be gone for another year.

John van Eeden said his family farms planned to complete their deheading yesterday, which meant saying goodbye to the purple, pink and red belts at their Bridge Rd property outside Invercargill.

The van Eedens employ dozens of Southland schoolchildren each year to dehead the flowers ready for export.

For many, it is their first job, albeit one which only lasts for a few weeks.

Yesterday was the last evening of the season.

"We had a record last night - 43 kids were here," Mr van Eeden said. "There will be 30-odd here tonight."

He said today's young workers were better than any he had seen before.

"I find the kids are better now than they were 10 years ago, in all honesty. They work much harder."

He believed this was because children wanted iPhones and other gadgets which their parents were only willing to buy if they made a contribution themselves.

Mr van Eeden's father bought the tulip business to Southland from his native Netherlands. The family has at least five generations of tulip farming behind it and owns 23 hectares of Southland land, amounting to millions of flowers.

About two thirds of Southland tulips are deheaded and exported as bulbs with stalks to the United States and Netherlands to produce flowers during the northern winter, Mr van Eeden said.

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