OPAC kiwifruit packhouse is a major employer in Opotiki today. This glimpse inside the modern packhouse looks a lot different to the inset photo of the first machine in the Enckevort orchard packhouse (inset) from the mid 1970s. Photo James Sandbrook

HALF a century on, Opotiki’s contribution to the kiwifruit market is undeniable.

With roots in the district since 1969, this year marks the 50th of dedicated growers’, packers’ and pioneers’ work in commercialising the crop.

New Zealand exported 1.859-billion-dollars’ worth of kiwifruit over the 2017-2018 season, 81 percent of that kiwifruit coming from the Bay of Plenty.

According to the New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Association, 8 percent of the total producing kiwifruit hectares nationwide are in Opotiki where there are about 300 landowners of orchards and leasees of kiwifruit orchards.

According to NZKGI chairman Doug Brown, the district has always held a high place in the industry and is set to improve over the years.

“As a district, Opotiki continues to be at the top of production and driving the industry forward,” he said.

PACKERS: Workers pack kiwifruit during a typically busy day at Opac.

“Growers have always been innovative and forward thinking and as a region Opotiki is blessed with great soils and environment for growing kiwifruit.”

Toi EDA general manager – operations Ian Morton agrees that Opotiki has large potential for growth.

He said on top of the currently producing 1004 hectares, an additional 1150 hectares had been identified as suitable for a range of high value horticulture activities, and work was progressing to prepare Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) applications to seek government funding to support community irrigation schemes and land use development.

“There is significant potential for further development,” he said.

Now, there is $170 million coming into the district each season through kiwifruit. “There is no doubt that kiwifruit is booming – the figures for growth in the Eastern Bay are startling,” he said.

For more information, figures and stories on this booming industry, and how it all began, check out our special 50 years of kiwifruit supplement inside today’s edition.