By Patrick O'Sullivan
Help is at hand for besieged kiwifruit growers with a package of support following the Psa-V vine disease outbreak, Primary Industries Minister David Carter announced yesterday.
Mr Carter declared Psa a medium-scale biosecurity event under the Government's Primary Sector Recovery Policy, triggering further assistance for growers dealing with the impacts of the disease.
Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers' Association kiwifruit chairman Peter Olsen said orchardists were doing "everything we can to stop further spread and keeping our fingers crossed".
He said orchardists welcomed any assistance and the Government's package looked very positive.
Mr Carter said the Government had worked closely with kiwifruit industry representatives to ensure that the declaration was timed to give "maximum possible benefit to growers".
"Psa was first detected in New Zealand in November 2010 but there was a noticeable time lag before it began to affect orchard incomes."
The Government committed $25 million in a dollar-for-dollar partnership with the industry to assist with disease management.
"Psa has presented an unprecedented challenge for growers. Assistance is needed to cope with uncertainty, to introduce orchard management changes and to make the right business decisions."
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco said the package would give growers most affected by Psa a level of financial security but the full impact of the disease was only just beginning to be felt as many growers face their first season with poor cash flow.
"When the income from their last harvest stops is when the financial and psychological pressure of Psa will weigh most heavily on growers and their families," he said.
The package includes: Recovery co-ordinators to provide one-on-one recovery help to growers, provision of care by local providers focussed on grower welfare initiatives, Rural Assistance Payments for growers suffering extreme hardship, support with technology transfer and advice, reimbursement - on a case-by-case basis - of costs incurred by volunteers. These measures are in addition to recovery measures already available to eligible growers.
Two kiwifruit orchards in the Gisborne district have now been confirmed as having the Psa-V vine-killing disease.
Over 2000 kiwifruit orchards around New Zealand are now affected by the disease - 68 per cent of the national hectarage.