22 May 2015

Humming Hamama Orchard

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 22 May 2015

suanaHoani Kerei, Alan Dobbie, Dave Wally and Blair Waipara on the Te Kaha 14B2 Trust orchard.

A decrease in domestic violence and kids now going to school with lunches are some of the tangible results of a successful kiwifruit orchard development in the small Eastern Bay of Plenty settlement of Te Kaha.

In 1999 the Te Kaha 14B2 Trust set up a 20 year joint venture with independent investors to develop an orchard with the aim of providing jobs and an income for locals, as well as encouraging other whanau to return home.

The orchard is just one of 20 or so in the area and, prior to its development, whanau moved away or were on the dole.

Thankfully that's now changed, says Hoani Kerei, who's a landowner and the manager of the four point four hectare orchard. People are gaining new skills and there is money in the community. "This way you can go to Opotiki every week to get you some new lollies," he laughs.

He says family life is better too. Some of that's because there is work and money, some of it because the workplace is drug free, with random testing.

When the ochard was first started, Hoani says he lost most of the work force in the first week.

"Mainly the males, so after that we were called the Grannies. Grandmothers and solo mothers, all the women. Few men stayed with us."  But he says now more men are trying to get clean and look for work on the orchard.

Returns from the gold kiwifruit were high and Hoani Kerei says with 800 thousand dollars in the bank, the Trust is ready to start looking for more kiwifruit land to buy.  "This is the beginning. The more money that comes to this area the more we're going to be able to develop whereas before we couldn't. We didn't have any money."

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