Government action overdue in cyclone ravaged communities

19 April 2023

Open letter to the New Zealand Government 

It is now more than two months since Cyclone Gabrielle struck, causing widespread devastation to commercial fruit and vegetable growing in Hawkes Bay, Tairāwhiti, Northland and northern Manawatu.

Government responded swiftly to the immediate crisis, which our industry has appreciated. However, our industry urgently needs direction and further support from the Government, as continued delays will have a cumulative effect on current losses and set our industry back by even more years. 

The horticulture industry needs:

  1. Access to additional Government funding for recovery, reestablishment and rebuild
  2. The Government to accelerate infrastructure repair, so produce can be transported to domestic markets or exported
  3. Government decisions regarding land use to be announced as soon as possible.

The harvest of surviving crops is concluding as we enter late autumn. Planning now starts for next year’s crops but there is still too much uncertainty for affected businesses to plan and reinvest. Furthermore, banks need a strong signal from the Government if they are to continue to support the horticulture sector in affected areas.

Many growers from affected areas have lost a significant portion, if not all of their income for the season. This has created cashflow issues which means that businesses are currently struggling to fund immediate clean up expenditure, which includes current and additional staff wages.

Furthermore, this expenditure does not include the costs of reinvestment for the next season and beyond.

Some businesses that lost crops (i.e., income) did not lose infrastructure, so have no insurance pay-outs to re-invest into their businesses. Crop losses (income) are not insurable and business interruption insurance does not extend to lost crops.

Many Ministers have visited the affected areas and various Government departments have asked for and received data and information on the cyclone’s impacts to the horticulture industry, leading to a nationwide impression of responsiveness, but the reality is less reassuring. 

We understand the Government’s desire to get its response to the recovery right. However, the ambiguity and delay in announcing next steps is doing more harm than good, and grower frustrations, fears and stress are rising. The timing of Government response will be the make or break for many businesses which only have the next few weeks to make decisions about next season and beyond. The horticultural industry is a vital part of the country’s economy, providing thriving businesses, job opportunities and growth in regional communities. The timeline for industry to recover, and to build back better, is quickly closing.

We look forward to receiving your immediate response.


Nadine Tunley – CEO: Horticulture New Zealand

Colin Bond – CEO: New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc

Kate Hellstrom - CEO: Summerfruit New Zealand

James Kuperus – CEO: Onions New Zealand

Antony Heywood – General Manager: Vegetables New Zealand Inc

Sally King – Executive Manager: New Zealand Asparagus Council and Strawberry Growers New Zealand Inc

Peter Ensor – Executive Manager: Citrus New Zealand

Ian Turk – General Manager: New Zealand Persimmon Industry Council and New Zealand Feijoa Growers Association

Richard Palmer – General Manager: Process Vegetables New Zealand

Jess Cranswick – Interim Team leader: New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc