Skye Flavell, 8, (Te Roroa), about to cut the ribbon at the centre. Photo / Susan Botting
Hemp, peanuts, soybeans and seaweed are among the new land use options being targeted with the opening of a new Kaipara Kai hub officially opened by Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Economic Development.
Jones yesterday opened the hub in Ruawai, a significant milestone in the Kaipara Kai project's $980,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant announced in February last year.
Jones said the funding was towards exploring new Kaipara crop and stock types as well as aquaculture opportunities.
About 60 people from around Northland and as far away as Wellington attended the opening for a hub that is now the epicentre of the Kaipara Kai programme.
Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith told attendees Ruawai had been chosen for the hub due to its central location in his district – 50 minutes' drive east to the Pacific Ocean and 50 minutes' drive west to the Tasman Sea.
Kaipara Kai would support locals into a climate-challenged future.
Ben Hita, Te Uri o Hau and Waikaretu marae kaumatua, said Kaipara Kai was important across the district.
"We support anything that helps Kaipara," Hita said.
Te Uri o Hau, Ngati Whatua and Te Roroa iwi, hapu and marae are all seen as part of the Kaipara Kai project.
Northland Inc is a key Kaipara Kai partner. Its chairwoman, Sarah Petersen, said Kaipara Kai would help develop the 50,000 hectares of Kaipara land that could be or had in the past been used for food production.
Jones said the initiative also promoted high-value cropping on the district's significant fertile whenua assets by utilising existing soil and crop research and environmental best practice.
Industrial hemp, peanuts, soybeans and seaweed are among about two dozen options across vegetable, fruit and arable crops, along with animal production and aquaculture, being investigated to boost Kaipara's economy.
The Kaipara Kai hub and project is being looked to as an option that can be developed elsewhere in Northland.
The project is Northland's newest primary industry growth catalyst. It aims to boost primary production around Kaipara.
This will be done in a multi-pronged table-to-plate approach building connections between locally applicable latest research into climate-change resilience, suitable soil types, up-to-date primary industry production information, workforce planning and links into markets.
The project is part of the $21 million PGF funding for the Kaipara Kickstart project featuring infrastructure development for the district in Northland's west for roading, water storage for horticultural land use intensification and now primary industry food production.
The Kaipara District Council (KDC) is leading the initiative which combines many players.
It is now working with Northland Inc to set up and manage the new Kaipara Kai hub in Ruawai. Climate, soil and crop research has been carried out by Niwa, Plant and Food Research, Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) and an Auckland-based market research consultant.
Kaipara's food production is predominantly kumara, beef, and dairy.