Te Puke's relationship with China is strengthening as Graeme Crossman prepares to profile the region at its largest agricultural fair next month.
And that could translate to investment and agriculture tourism opportunities for the Bay.
The Te Puke Economic Development Group director and Kiwi 360 kiwifruit tourism operator says the expenses-paid VIP guest speaker opportunity was almost "too good to be true".
The China Agriculture Hi-Tech Fair in Yangling is expected to attract more than 1.5 million visitors and is a major calendar event that gains worldwide exposure. Crossman credits his invitation to reciprocal visits between the Te Puke Economic Development Group and heads of government for Shaanxi Province.
"First of all it's the province where a large amount of kiwifruit is grown so we have had delegations coming and going. Business and party leaders have visited our place and [development group managing director] Mark Boyle and I have visited some of their kiwifruit activities."
Being asked to make a presentation at the fair was an acknowledgment and recognition of what Chinese delegates had discovered in Te Puke, Crossman says.
"When they come to our area the overriding impression and feeling you get is that they can't believe we have this type of environment and can produce things so easily compared to what they have to do to get their production up.
"So as far as they are concerned it's paradise and that is the message we are trying to get across to all Chinese in respect to visitors and investors. They can only aspire to the climate, the healthy foods, the manuka honey and the kiwifruit."
Crossman will talk about how he turned a small farm into a tourist enterprise and how that knowledge was transferable to any agricultural product.
"I am highlighting not only this particular example of agriculture tourism but the uniqueness of the area and how we have wrapped in the sub region that we know: Te Puke Goodness Grows Here and then the wider region, which is called the Bay of Plenty and the country, which is 100 per cent Pure NZ. It shows how we fit in and how we work those scenarios into establishing a small business based on agriculture tourism."
The Te Puke Goodness Highway could be the umbilical cord that links all Western Bay communities and creates a unique hands-on experience for visitors, he says. "The Chinese and Asians crave to get in and walk among fruit and touch and feel real produce and agriculture. So while we might want whiz-bang, high-tech, hugely expensive tourist attractions we have got something only the Chinese can dream about - and it's the natural environment."
Comvita honey is the next big agriculture experience and Crossman said they need to align with Rotorua to attract visitors.