Some might say you'd be nuts to come to the Tararua, but nuts could not only bring people to the district, it may lift our profile and be an economic saviour.
At last week's hazelnut seminar run by the Tararua District Council, the numbers attending stunned district marketer Lianne Simpkin.
"It was quite overwhelming," she said. "I'd hoped to attract 20 to the seminar, but we had more than 50, with 25 keen to form a grower-led group to carry the idea further.
"People can see a future for hazelnuts in the Tararua and the seminar appealed to both lifestylers and farmers wanting to diversify."
Hazelnut Growers Association of New Zealand (HGANZ) chairman Murray Redpath believes hazelnuts could potentially deliver returns exceeding those from dairy farming if growers could achieve the yields and orchard management cost efficiencies seen in places like Chile and Oregon, which have similar environments to New Zealand.
"It takes five years before a reasonable crop can be harvested, but from then on yields will escalate quickly," he said.
Net returns at maturity are around $5000/ha a year, for two to three weeks worth of work a year per hectare. (This depends on whether you do all the work yourself or use contractors).
Mrs Simpkin said the response to the hazelnut seminar - part of the council's GO Project - had her fielding calls from around New Zealand.
"It's very rewarding. This has been a 10-year journey for council and to be recognised now for what they're promoting for the district is wonderful," she said. "Council invested money in mapping soil types, rainfall, the climatic future for the district and identified crops really well suited to our district."
The national hazelnut group and tree croppers have expressed an interest in joining the grower-led hazelnut group, with another seminar in February next year.
The council's GO Project, with help from Niwa, Crop and Food Research and Hortresearch, identified the Tararua as highly suitable for growing not only hazelnuts, but other crops with links to markets and the next workshop will focus on feijoas.
Further information can be found on the council website, www.tararua.govt.nz