Landowners see red: ‘I’ll be surrounded …. I’ll be in prison’

If an independent commissioner approves a retrospective land use consent for a giant kiwifruit orchard at 582 Parallel Road in Ōhaupō, Nick Jennings says everyone in the district is “doomed”.

He and his family will face being boxed in on three sides of their property by six metre high shade cloth and intrusive shelterbelts.

It will also send a clear message to other horticulturalists they can do what they like in Waipā, he says.

And some already have. Rural residents have contacted The News since we revealed poles and supporting structures have been going up around the district without the required council resource consents to protect newly-planted Ruby Red kiwifruit orchards.

Kiwifruit Investments Limited has applied for retrospective and prospective resource consents to establish vertical and horizontal artificial kiwifruit shelters and to plant shelterbeds in Parallel Road. The hearing will be on February 22 before Alan Withy.

The council says it is aware of the district-wide activity and the concerns of neighbouring landowners.

Enforcement team leader Ken Danby recently told a landowner there was likely to be a lot more in the district in the coming years.

Jennings told The News: “if they get my one over the line, I will be surrounded by white shade cloth, I will be in prison. It’s like they are saying catch me if you can.”

The shelters will block light and warmth, he says.

Waipā planners concede the Jennings will experience “significant visual effects, a change of outlook and open rural character”.

But in their recommendation to Withy to approve the retrospective application, they said the property will be adversely affected in a “minor capacity”.

One of the Jennings’ boundaries showing how close the structures are with, from left, Jennings, Margaret and Grant Walker. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Two organisations at either end of the district – the Lake Karāpiro and Environs Protection Group and the Ngāhinapōuri Protection Society – have brought in lawyers to fight the spread towards them.

Jennings has a barrister acting for him while other Parallel Road residents are also using lawyers to communicate with the council.

One resident has taken the council to the High Court for a judicial review of Withy’s decision to grant retrospective consent for a kiwifruit orchard development at 383 Parallel Road.

“Professional kiwifruit growers investing millions in development are fully aware of the district plan rules,” says a spokesperson for the Karāpiro group.

But Kiwifruit Investments Ltd director Parmvir Singh Bains said in his evidence to the application that he “had no idea resource consent was needed”.

Zespri promotes Ruby Red – branded RubyRed – among a host of kiwifruit varieties.

The Karāpiro spokesperson claimed growers know that Waipā either turns a blind eye or supports them to apply retrospectively, and they then seem to get an easy ride though the consent process.

“They also know that usually they can simply outspend residents via planners, reports and legal resource.”

The Ngāhinapōuri group says the council knows residents are vehemently opposed to the screens and canopies and are aware of the environmental effect but seem reluctant to get involved.

The group has 25 landowner members and plans to hold a community meeting to discuss any further action.

Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growers are eyeing up Waikato land because of land and labour shortages in Te Puke, the kiwifruit capital of the world.

“We just want to grow good kiwifruit and make the most of these high quality growing soils,” Bains said in his evidence.

The overhead shelters are six metres high with timber poles and string attached to the structure which the kiwifruit grow along.

They protect the crop from birds, light hail and wind damage while also preventing spray drift.

Bains and other kiwifruit orchardists are planting the Ruby Red variety which are susceptible to wind rub and require shelter protection.

Other varieties, such as Hayward – an older green kiwifruit – do not need overhead shelter protection.

We say: Build and be damned

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