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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

“Garden of New Zealand”

Garden of New Zealand

Poverty Bay: “A Fruitgrowers' Paradise”

Writing to the Poverty Bay Standard (3 July, 1873) F. W. C. Sturm, who was born in Austria in 1804 and trained as a botanist, and who had been acquainted with Poverty Bay since 1842, said:

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“Turanga (Poverty Bay) has been the ‘Garden of New Zealand’ for a number of years, and it will become a fruitgrowers' paradise. Its soil and its climate are all that can be desired. Most European fruits will grow to perfection; also some of the tropical fruits. I can strongly recommend, in particular, olives, almonds and walnuts. In the course of from 10 to 12 years they would repay handsomely for all the labour and money spent in bringing them into production.”

It was claimed on behalf of Captain Harris that he introduced peach and apricot trees in May, 1831, and, later, the apple, pear and cherry. The Rev. W. Williams planted grape vines as well as fruit trees at Kaupapa in 1840. Large peach groves (planted by the natives) stood on Opou, Repongaere and on the banks of the Waimata River in the 1860's. J. W. Johnson (Maraetaha) had the finest orchard in the district in the 1880's; it contained every fruit that had proved suited to the district. In 1887 George Schmidt (at one time employed at the Imperial Gardens at Stuttgart) planted 2,700 fruit trees for W. K. Chambers at Repongaere.


The earliest citrus grower in Poverty Bay was Edward Murphy, who, in 1885, planted a small grove at Kaiariki (Manutuke). An olive tree which W. S. Greene planted on the property in 1872 was reputed, in 1947, to have a bearing capacity of some cwts. Mr. Schmidt established a citrus orchard at Repongaere, and, in the 1890's, he was the district's largest exporter of lemons. Another large orchard in which citrus trees were well represented was planted by W. L. Petchell at Ormond in 1891. He also planted a grove of prune trees and imported a processing plant, but the low price of imported prunes made his enterprise uneconomic. One of the largest sweet orange trees in the Dominion—a St. Michael—may be seen at Mrs. W. Clark's home at Opou. It stands 24ft. high, has a spread of 27ft., and bears a crop of about 25 bushel cases of marketable fruit.

Exports of apples from Poverty Bay overseas in 1926 totalled 9,686 cases, and, two years later, the quantity had trebled. A start was made to export pears in 1929. Cherries do particularly well in the Tiniroto and Hangaroa districts, and strawberries at Motu. Edible grapes, of which many tons are sent away from Gisborne each season, find a ready market in less favoured districts, but not sufficient wine grapes are yet (1949) being grown to enable even the local market for wine to be fully supplied. In 1947 a number of ex-servicemen took up small holdings at Manutuke, and planted grape vines and various kinds of berries.