Hope blossoms for flood-hit cherry grower

Blossoms promise fruit for Riverside Cherries, which was damaged by floods in Cyclone Gabrielle...
Blossoms promise fruit for Riverside Cherries, which was damaged by floods in Cyclone Gabrielle in February. Photo: Riverside Cherries
Cherry trees are blossoming at a cyclone damaged orchard in Hawke's Bay, sparking hopes for a good harvest for Christmas.

In February, Cyclone Gabrielle caused Ngaruroro River to burst its banks and smash through Riverside Cherries' 10ha apple orchard and seven hectares of cherry trees.

The Twyford business lost all the apple trees and half a hectare of cherries.

After eight months of hard mahi, the re-planted and repaired cherry orchard is blossoming, but owner Jerf van Beek said there was still lots of work to do.

"We were completely smashed. What we lost, we re-planted in young trees, then we had to start the big job of repairing our cages.

"They were completely washed away and broken, so that's seven hectares of netting, so it was quite a job.

"Today, we're still busy doing the final closure of those cages, because once you get a bit of colour on cherries, the birds just go absolutely nuts. No nets, no crops."

The small township of Fernhill west of Hastings after the Ngaruroro River burst its banks in...
The small township of Fernhill west of Hastings after the Ngaruroro River burst its banks in February. Photo: Supplied / Dawson Bliss
The crop would probably be half the size of last year's harvest, but cherries should be available by early December, van Beek said.

"Fortunately we have got a nice crop hanging there. It's not as big, the cyclone has had an effect... but we've got a crop," he said.

"We've got our own packhouse which was completely washed out, so we're now in the process of rebuilding that packhouse, and the machinery. The coolstore was completely written off, we had to rebuild that."

The orchard should be able to fill most of its usual orders for summer, van Beek said.

"It's all got to be done in the nick of time, but it will happen, so we will be able to supply our loyal customers around Auckland, Wellington and across New Zealand with a lovely cherry crop."

Riverside Cherries owner Jerf van Beek. Photo: RNZ
Riverside Cherries owner Jerf van Beek. Photo: RNZ
The apple orchard has been re-planted in squash to help revive the silt-damaged soil and bring it back into production.

The Riverside team and wider community had helped the orchard survive the cyclone damage, van Beek said.

"The volunteers on day two and three have made it possible that we could arrive at this point here now. They helped us right through. As individuals, we would never have been able to get to this point.

"Our staff, the volunteers have worked so hard to get us to this point - and that's really what we're grateful for."

New Zealand Apples and Pears' latest analysis of the damage showed 47 percent of Hawke's Bay apple orchards were impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

 

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