Perfect Weather Grows Outstanding Hawke's Bay Apples


Four weeks of perfect apple growing weather and New Zealand’s $700 million record crop is looking spectacular – in fruit size, quality and flavour.

Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said New Zealand is growing the best apples in the world. 

“We are already number one for our international competitive edge and this season is going to be exceptional.

“Global demand is for bigger apples and over this past month New Zealand’s apples have been feeding off the perfect growing conditions with plenty of sunshine.

“Our oceanic climate is perfect for apple growing.  We have a coastal sea breeze keeping apples cool during the night and are experiencing day after day of sunny and warm temperatures in the mid to high 20s.”

“In January we forecasted New Zealand would produce a record export crop of $700-million.  We were expecting, given the relatively cool spring conditions that trees would grow slightly smaller apples. 

“But a month of perfect growing conditions has seen fruit really come on, it’s going to be an outstanding season and all our growing regions will prosper,” Mr Pollard said.

“New Zealand’s apple industry is entering an extremely exciting time capturing significant growth, investment and profitability.

“It’s great news for our apple growing regions of Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Central Otago, Gisborne, Waikato, Wairarapa and South Canterbury.”  

Hawke's Bay shearer gearing up

aarowland smith

Rowland Smith

Budding shearing champions from the Nelson and Marlborough region will have the chance to see the World’s best in action when champion Rowland Smith competes at the Tapawera Shears tomorrow(Saturday).

Smith, who won the World title in Ireland in 2014 and last weekend started a bid to defend it next year by winning the first two rounds of as New Zealand team selection series confirmed earlier this week he planned to shear at Tapawera.

Near invincible over the last two years, with 16 wins in 18 finals dating back to the 2014 Golden Shears win which put him into the World Championships two months later,

The former Northland and now Hawke’s Bay shearer and farmer said he will compete at Tapawera to get starters points to be eligible for the South Island Shearer of the Year final.

Shearers must compete in at least four shows in the South Island to be eligible for SISOY finals at the Southern Shears in Gore next month.

Tapawera, just under 60km south of Nelson on SH6, has hosted World champions or prospective World champions in the past, but they are rare appearances in the region.

Event organiser Kerry Irvine says he hopes the appearance will attract younger hopefuls to both see the champion and compete in their own grades, although the pressure of work as shearing backs-up following recent rain in the region threatens to limit entries to some degree.

About 320 sheep have been prepared for the shears which start at 10am, with competition in all four grades from Junior to Open, along with a Cleanshear. The event will be followed with a speedshear tomorrow night at the Tapawera Hotel, starting at 7pm.

While there are 60 competitions during the season on the Shearing Sports New Zealand calendar during the season, the Tapawera Shears is the only event in the South Island this weekend, while there are three in the North Island, at Warkworth and Tauranga on Saturday, and Levin on Sunday.

Hawke's Bay shearer Rodney Sutton retains his nine year old record


Rodney Sutton 9 yrs ago

Record-breaking shearer Stacey Te Huia was today shearing-on for the sake of the helpers and the fans after his latest attempt on the World solo nine-hour strongwool ewe-shearing record was called-off after less than half-way through.

While conditions on the day in the Mangarata-Taratahi Ag-Training Centre woolshed near Te Ore Ore Masterton were ideal, Te Huia was never able to get onto the pace of over 80 an hour to break the record of 721 set by Hawke’s Bay shearer Rodney Sutton almost nine years ago.

Going into morning smoko after 3hrs 45mins, Te Huia had shorn 281 - 17 shy of the tally at the equivalent stage of Sutton’s record in January 2007.

After a short discussion with the four World Sheep Shearing Records Society judges it was decided to call off the attempt, but Te Huia decided to return the board to shear for the sake of his workers and their big day out.

Experts said a mixture of factors conspired to add to the toughness of the challenge, including on-and-off rain over the previous two days.

Te Huia expects to return to his Australian base within a week and may contemplate another record on merino sheep, as he did when he set a record on Australia’s finewooled finest last February, one of three records he holds.

Another shearing record attempt is being undertaken on Thursday when three shearers will tackle a lambshearing record which was set in 1999. It will take place in a woolshed near Te Kuiti.

Thousands watch Shearing Big Day Out in Hawke's Bay


Thousands of sheep are being shorn in a major cancer fundraiser in a Hawke’s Bay woolshed today despite rain which has enveloped the area over much of the last two days.

The Shearing Big Day Out is taking place at Waitara Station, north of the State Highway 5 landmark of Te Pohue, between Napier and Taupo.

The team comprised several of New Zealand’s top shearers, including World champion, Hastings gun and Northland-raised Rowland Smith, and reigning 2012 shearing and woolhandling champions Gavin Mutch and Joel Henare, both now defending Golden Shears champions.

Also on the stands were photos of people lost to the shearing industry because of cancer, including multiple World and Golden Shears woolhandling champion Joanne Kumeroa who died last year and for whom a tombstone unveiling was held in Whanganui on Sunday.

The day started at 5am with a target of 5000 perendale ewes, expected to fill about 100 bales. It is, however, not a record attempt, although two unrelated official shearing record attempts are taking place this week, near Masterton tomorrow (Tuesday) and near Te Kuiti on Thursday.

Co-ordinated by station owner and farmer Lloyd Holloway, Flaxmere shearing contractor Colin Watson Paul, and Pongaroa-based Heiniger shearing gear representative Tony Hoggard, the Big Day Out aims to raise $50,000 for the Cancer Society.

The money is from wages and donation, contributed by those at the event as well as some shearing gangs in other parts of the country and by donations to the cause.

The eight shearers on board for the first run from 5am to 7am shore almost 1000 sheep, but with the weather closing-in around the woolshed, and a growing number of wet sheep to contend with, the rate per hour decreased and in the five-and-a-half hours to lunch the tally had reached 2302.

Several hundred people were at the property despite the weather, including campervan tourists who had included the event on their itineraries.

Mr Hoggard said the idea was developed when its eventual organisers learnt the Cancer Society receives no Government funding.

Society Hawke’s Bay area manager Trudy Kirk said the society, from major fundraising events such as Daffodil Day and the Relay for Life, contributes $2 million a year to Cancer research.

"A lot of it comes when people like Tony, Colin and Lloyd walk throughout the door and say we want to do something to help," she said.

"While this is a fundraiser this is something more than that for the shearing fraternity," she said.

The enthusiasm was not dampened by the weather, with many hoping it will become an annual event.

Dry summer puts pressure on Hawke's Bay irrigation project

Irrigation has had some great wins in 2015. But developing infrastructure is a slow moving beast and primary production in many parts of the country will suffer yet another dry summer without the certainty water storage could bring.

Great strides have been made in policy direction. But concerns still remain around how farmers will practically manage their nutrient run-off, mitigate other environmental impacts on-farm and then still be expected to afford access to reliable water for irrigation.

The fourth Land and Water Forum Report, released in November, includes recommendations that make the case for central funding of environmental infrastructure such as water storage and wetlands.

This means freshwater can be captured for environmental benefits such as managed aquifer recharge and augmenting rivers in dry seasons.

This captured water can also relieve problems of over-allocation to farmers and provide efficient water for new users.

The report recommends greater flexibility regarding transferability of water consents so that water in dry seasons is not wasted and can be transferred to where it is most needed.

Suggested amendments to the Resource Management Act (RMA) will also help streamline the consent process and give more weight to national direction and collaborative processes for scheme development.

This should result in less costly and lengthy processes to allow for farmers to access water, and for the development of community-driven water storage projects.

The government’s 30 Year Infrastructure Plan, announced this year, includes irrigation as part of the foundations for a prosperous New Zealand and recognises more needs to be done to ensure economic and social benefits are maximised while still protecting the environment.

Significant work has done on the irrigation component of the OVERSEER model, which allows farmers to better understand their nutrient losses and analyse how their irrigation management influences this.

Progress in both islands

After much debacle and debate, a construction timeline has been tabled for Ruataniwha in the Hawke’s Bay now that it has sufficient farmer uptake and interest from investors.

Nicky Hyslop web

Nicky Hyslop chairwoman of Irrigation New Zealand

The Wairarapa Water Users Project is moving ahead through its feasibility stage, investigating possible sites in detail alongside the level of farmer demand, both now and into the future.

In the South Island, Central Plains Water opened Stage 1 this year, bringing water to the first 20,000ha of dairy, cropping and sheep and beef land between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers; and consent was granted for the Waimea Dam in Tasman to go ahead.

Scheme development has been bolstered by the 2015 budget allocation of $25 million of new funding to the Irrigation Acceleration Fund - which helps kick start irrigation projects with seed funding.

As an organisation, Irrigation New Zealand continues to support a rapidly developing industry by providing education and assistance to members. We have run 16 Irrigation Manger workshops in 2015 with over 300 attendees.

These have a focus on efficient water application for water, nutrient and energy savings. The biennial conference and expo in 2016 event will have the theme of "Irrigation - Grow with the Flow; Food, Jobs, Environment and Play."

Some headline conference topics are "How irrigators are dealing with new requirements for increased irrigation and nutrient use efficiency" and "Does the opportunity exist to sell Kiwi irrigation knowledge to the world?"

The inaugural industry snapshot (pdf) shows what irrigated land is producing and what the outlook and challenges are for the industry.

Similarly, in preparation for yet another dry summer in the South Island, the SMART Irrigation campaign shares with home gardeners and community irrigation projects ways to apply water efficiently.

Nicky Hyslop is chairwoman of Irrigation New Zealand

Hawke's Bay Prison inmates are training to come beekeepers at a time hive theft is rampant

bees at night

Under a razor-wire fence, a queen bee scurries about a honeycomb, surrounded by thousands of buzzing workers and drones.

A high-security prisoner kitted out in a protective suit checks the hive to make sure the bees are healthy, using a smoker to keep them docile.

The 19-year-old, serving two-and-a-half years for burglary, hopes to use the skills he's learning here to get into beekeeping.

We're at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison's youth unit, where Corrections is paying to put five prisoners through a certificate in apiculture correspondence course run by Telford Campus, a division of Lincoln University.

READ MORE: -Police catching up with Northland beehive thefts-Thieves target beehives as global buzz grows over manuka honey-Yard of beehives stolen from Te Awamutu-Taranaki beekeeper stung by hive thefts

Another prisoner at the Auckland South Corrections Facility is studying beekeeping and Telford says five inmates around the country have already completed the course.

"They said they were running a beekeeping course for the boys, I just sort of hopped on it," the prisoner says. "It's pretty hard not being around family. It takes my mind off all the trouble.

He's right. Manuka honey prices in particular have skyrocketed over recent years as consumers lap it up for its anti-bacterial properties. Depending on its activity rating, manuka honey fetches anywhere from $22 to $90 a kilo.

A small operator running 30 or 40 hives in a block of manuka could expect to make at least $30,000 a season, or twice that if it's a high-yield area.

A few years ago a 200-litre drum of manuka honey sold for $2400 - today it could fetch $10,600. These rivers of gold have attracted hordes of people to the beekeeping business. There are now 6000 beekeepers operating around 600,000 hives, with more registering every week. But the industry has gained a bad name overseas because of exports of "fake" manuka, and some beekeepers have shady backgrounds. Carl Butcher of Snells Beach, for example, who was convicted of stealing more than 20 hives in 2011, did his apiculture course while on remand in Northland Region Corrections Facility on firearms and assault charges. Another Northland beekeeper, Justin Howes, who also uses the alias Matthew Adams, is currently before the courts on charges of stealing hives. Where does all this stolen honey end up?

"Once it passes through the door of an extraction plant, it can be blended with legitimate product, and is impossible to trace" says Kevin Wallace, former president of the Whangarei Bee Club, who has helped track down stolen hives.

Wallace says a dodgy beekeeper might buy 20 hives and receive another 70 stolen ones, putting the honey through an extraction plant with all the right paperwork.

From there, the honey could be sold at the farm gate, at markets, direct to restaurants or to cash buyers overseas, Wallace says.

He claims that even motorcycle gangs in Northland have jumped on the bandwagon - emptying hives of their frames and selling the honey at a 50 per cent discount for cash to unscrupulous processors.

Police would not comment as there are cases before the court, but say they have launched a range of initiatives to clamp down on hive theft and have made some significant arrests.

Wallace says the industry is riddled with dishonest players. During his time as president of the bee club, he says, he kicked out about a dozen members for dishonesty.

"They were falsifying documents for [honey] extraction. These were good club members, yet they would bring all their mates' honey in and get it extracted under their registration number."

Against this background, beekeepers are sceptical about the idea of training prisoners to become beekeepers.

"I don't know if we need a lot of ex-convicts in the industry," says Bay of Plenty honey producer Neil Mossop. "We've got a few questionable people ... already, to say the least.

"It's like training them up on security surveillance cameras or the jewellery industry - I don't know why they picked the beekeeping industry." 'BAD BOYS' HONEY'

There are three hives at the Hawke's Bay prison youth unit, with a fourth soon to be added. The honey is used in the prison kitchen and the rest given to needy families and food banks. Most days the unit is relatively quiet, but it has also been the scene of extreme violence. During a riot in 2011, two guards were viciously attacked, one having scalding water thrown in his face and his arm shattered. Numerous fires were lit and the unit was closed for 11 months while it was repaired. Brent McGrannachan, the unit's youth education tutor, says spending time with prisoners while tending to beehives is a great way to bond. "I call it grandfathering," he says. "It's a medium to talk to them about life ... starting a business and how to be a good citizen. "The best thing about a bee colony is they're all dependent on each other, so you start talking about that and bringing it back to what [people] are like." The driving force behind the project is guard Carl McQuinlan, who has been a hobbyist beekeeper for 25 years. "I just thought it would be a good idea to share some of that knowledge with these guys and turn their lives around and see that it is a viable industry to be in ... that on their release, there is employment there." Eventually he hopes to produce enough honey to sell some commercially to cover costs, and perhaps even create a label. "Bad Boys' Honey was one name they came up with, but we want to market it a bit better than that." Is he concerned some of his graduates might be tempted to steal hives as a quicker way to get started? "Hopefully not. If they can see there's a future in it, hopefully they will change their ways. You try and instil those values of work, if you instil those work ethics in them, they shouldn't need to go and steal things." Others are not convinced. Even Butcher, who was convicted of stealing hives from sites around Northland but maintains his innocence, questions why inmates are being schooled for an industry with so much money at stake and so many "dirty tricks". "I would have thought prisons would have more sense than to teach inmates ... the ins and outs." Butcher says that although he did his apiculture course behind bars, he did it off his own bat and had no help from Corrections. He claims competition for spots in manuka blocks in Northland is so intense that some of the "big players" have dusted each other's hives with wasp killer to destroy their colonies. Butcher says he's trying to find investors to build a honey extraction plant. "I've been working hard to rebuild my life."

Mossop says hive theft has become an organised criminal enterprise. "They're taking off the brands, repainting them and selling them on Trade Me," he says.

"When you consider there's hundreds of millions of dollars worth of beehives scattered throughout paddocks and bush around New Zealand - it's like large-scale stock rustling."

But he says the industry is catching up with criminals. "They're getting away with it at the moment ... but there are some big breakthroughs in technology such as putting GPS devices in hives which activate on movement - when they are moved it will ring an app on your cellphone." He says surveillance cameras and rewards for information are also effective, and police are taking the problem more seriously. Wallace says that given hives cost several hundred dollars each, beekeepers can't afford to have them stolen. "If someone comes and takes 30 or 40 hives before they've started producing, it hits you hard in the pocket, no matter how big you are." Not only are prisoners being trained as beekeepers, Wallace says, but beneficiaries have received grants from Work and Income to get started in the industry. Work and Income confirmed that. "It's a bit hard not to be cynical," Wallace says. But George Massingham, director of Hawke's Bay prison, makes no apologies for giving prisoners new skills to turn their lives around, and even talks of making the youth unit a "kindergarten" for the bee industry. "On the outside, these guys have equal rights to everybody else to live in New Zealand without being tarred. They've done their crime, they're doing the time, my job is to get them out and make them good citizens." ACCUSED THIEF SPEAKS

Justin Howes says the beekeeping industry has dishonest people in it, but he's not one of them.

"What industry doesn't have dishonest people when you're dealing with millions of dollars?"

A beekeeper since 2010 and former director of the now-defunct company Bee Wise Honey, Howes, 25, is facing charges in the Whangarei District Court of stealing hives.

He gave his first-ever interview because he says he's tired of being falsely accused by rivals, who, he claims, want to hound him out of business. He claims some of his hives have been poisoned.

"I've had enough. It's getting depressing. It's taking everything I work for away from me."

He took Stuff to a yard on a rural property near Whangarei where he has several dozen hives, and explained how anyone who visited could accuse him of theft because some of the registration numbers don't belong to him.

But he says there's a simple explanation for that. It's common practice in the industry to "split" a hive to make a new one - taking half the frames out of one box and putting them into another to boost bee numbers.

"They get mixed up all over the place," Howes says. The bottom line is, he says, the hives and frames were either bought legitimately or given to him as payment for work.

He took us to a remote block of bush near the coast where a large commercial operator keeps hives, and to prove his point, showed several different registration numbers on the hives.

"It's got to stop, we need a better way of identifying hives."

But John Hartnell, chairman of the Federated Farmers bee industry group, says the rules are clear and simple.

"It's the beekeeper's legal obligation to have his, and only his, registration number on his hives. If he buys gear from another beekeeper, he must remove the previous registration and replace, no excuses accepted."

Howes confirms he has used an alias, Matthew Adams, for some of his beekeeping activities. It's because rivals have dragged his name through the mud, he says, making it difficult for him to deal with landowners.

He says there's a good living to be made from beekeeping. "I'm not going to stop for anybody."

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