Gisborne grows its first banana plantation

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Gisborne is home to the Tairāwhiti's first commercial banana plantation, a joint venture between Tai Pukenga Ltd and AgResearch, with the aim to expand banana farms right across the East Coast.

New Zealanders eat more bananas per person than almost anywhere else in the world and now Gisborne has a slice of the banana market.

"New Zealand imports over $220 million dollars worth of bananas every year from Ecuador, Mexico and the Philipines.  Import substitution is probably a good thing for our economy at this stage.  Why can't we grow our own, sell our own and keep all that money within our communities?" says Trevor Mills, Banana Project Manager for Tai Pukenga.

The plantation here is naturally grown, with future plans to produce as many plants as possible by growing them in labs at Massey University in Palmerston North.

"There'd be increased employment on the scientific side we'd very much like- once our tissue culture methods are established- to get people on the Tairāwhiti trained up to do that work, also the planting, the maintenance and the harvesting," says Mills.

Gisborne's location and the wider coastline of the East Coast with its close proximity to the sea make it the perfect climate for a burgeoning banana industry.

"A hectare of bananas, you'll have about 1,000 plants.  If you have a 10kg bunch per plant it's a minimum base rate of $30 per bunch you're looking at $30,000 return after two years that is very competitive against the likes of citrus, grapes and avocados and any other horticulture crops we have here at the moment."

The future plan is to secure for more funding to expand the banana plantation from areas like Potaka down to Mohaka.