Saturday, April 20, 2024

Kaipara Kai charts new course

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The Kaipara Kai project has changed direction with the closure of its shopfront premises in Ruawai and a search is under way for new crops to be grown under irrigation.
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Kaipara District Mayor Jason Smith, also a sheep, beef and arable farmer near Ruawai, says the first 18-month phase of the project had been completed and its findings were being written.

The Ruawai hub had been closed because the building was found to have asbestos and funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had finished.

It was opened in March last year by Northland politicians, including then Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

Earlier this year, considerable publicity was generated by peanut cropping trials on sandy soils on Pouto Peninsula, Ruawai and Kai Iwi Lakes districts, as part of the effort to find viable crops to complement the nation’s kumara output.

Yields and flavours are promising and peanut growing should be extended to more sites next season, although commercial contracts with Pic’s Peanut Butter are confidential.

Smith says the objective of Kaipara Kai remained to find crops, fruits and vegetables that are suited to specific sites in the district.

Kaipara District officials and landowners wanted to see the impetus from the first 18 months of Kaipara Kai continue with more trials on the ground.

Northland Inc is now managing Kaipara Kai out of its Orchard offices in Whangarei, with a new emphasis on food production in all the north, not only the Kaipara district.

General manager of investment and infrastructure Vaughan Cooper says he was waiting on a consultant’s report into the ways Kaipara Kai could be delivered in future.

The project was governed by an activation plan and Northland Inc was one of a number of partners tasked with delivering the plan.

For the next two growing seasons, decisions were needed on crop possibilities and trial structures.

With central government funding for a Kaipara Water programme, a pivot irrigator has been installed near the town of Te Kopuru on the Pouto Peninsula and will be used over back-to-back new crops.

It will draw water under consent from a local stream but longer-term should be connected to the Te Tai Tokerau Trust Redhill water storage and reticulation scheme under construction presently.

Smith says a second crop during summer and autumn would only be possible under irrigation because the peninsula got very little rainfall at that time of the year.

A different type of irrigator is planned for further north in the Kaipara District, nearer to the Maunganui Bluff, to trial other crops on different soil types.

Smith says Kaipara District and Far North District Council were now shareholders in Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency, which was previously a company wholly owned by Northland Regional Council.

It is possible that Ngāwha Innovation and Enterprise Park near Kaikohe will host a food hub for startup companies, rural advisors and specialist services, such as fruit processing.

Smith says Far North Holdings was working in conjunction with Northland Inc on the possibilities.

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