A portion of a Northland pioneering cattle grazing and fattening farm, that has been owned by members of the same family for 178 years, has been placed on the market for sale.

The 23ha property at Maungatapere about 11 kms west of Whangarei was formerly a much bigger dairy farm known as Crystal Springs. It was the first pedigree Jersey stud in Northland, introducing a gene-poll of breeding cattle brought out from the United Kingdom.

In recent years the block and an adjacent leased farm, have been concurrently used to fatten around 200 weaned bulls at a time under contract from around 100kgs up to 370kgs. Owners Irving and Glenys Stevens are now selling up and retiring.

However, a rural land sales specialist says the predominantly flat terrain of the Maungatapere site, combined with rich volcanic silt loam soils, a temperate climate and good rainfall; all combine to indicate the best future usage of the block would be for horticultural production rather than what has been the traditional agricultural output.

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The block at 1217 State Highway 14 at Maungatapere is being marketed for sale by tender through Vinni Bhula of Bayleys Whangarei, with tenders closing at 2pm on November 29.

Bhula says the evolution of cropping alternatives in many parts of New Zealand mean greater revenues can be derived from moving away grazing cattle and sheep on fertile volcanic soil pastures.

"The conversion trend is particularly evident in Maungatapere where multiple landholdings, which were traditionally run as dairy units, have been converted into avocado and kiwifruit plantations over the past two decades.

"From this perspective, the State Highway 14 block could easily be adapted into an existing large avocado or kiwifruit-growing operation in the area – enabling economies of scale through the utilisation of shared cropping and packhouse facilities and resources," he says.

"There is limited availability of suitable volcanic land in the Whangarei region now, as most of the land has already been developed into orchards."

Infrastructure on the block consists of an old hay barn, a three-bay implement shed, a smaller workshop, and a 140sq m three-bedroom home.

Irrigation on the property comes from a consented 79m deep six-inch bore with consent to draw up to 80,000 cubic metres of water annually. Water is circulated across the crop via a fixed sprinkler system.

Bhula says well managed avocado orchards in Maungatapere are achieving orchard gate returns of $45,000 to $60,000 per hectare.

"Well-managed green kiwifruit orchards in Maungatapere are also achieving $60,000 per hectare; while well-managed gold kiwifruit orchards in Maungatapere are are achieving $120,000 per hectare."

Whangarei district has approximately 811ha of land planted in commercial avocado production, with most blocks being in the 2ha to 6ha range.

The district has about 419ha of land planted in commercial kiwifruit production, with most blocks being in the 1ha to 6ha range.

Kiwifruit is New Zealand's largest single horticultural export by both volume and value – easily eclipsing wine and apples. Kiwifruit exports accounted for $1.6 billion in sales for the year ending June 2017, with that figure expected to double by 2025.

New Zealand's kiwifruit industry has around 2500 commercial growers operating 3000 registered orchards on 12,000ha of land. Of that, 4600ha sustain the high value SunGold G3 variety which has prompted marketing co-op' body Zespri to increase the area it intends to allocate to planting this variety from 400ha a year to 700ha a year for the next five years.

"The SunGold G3 variety is still relatively unaccounted for in Northland, so there is the potential to see this clone introduced on any new kiwifruit orchards planted in the region," Bhula says.

The 2016/17 growing season saw Zespri global sales up 19 per cent from the previous year on exceptionally high cropping yields. Combined, the European Union and Japan take almost half of New Zealand's export kiwifruit crop, with China our third biggest market for the crop.

New Zealand has about 1400 commercial avocado growers – with most production taking place north of the Bay of Plenty and delivering crops year-round, but with the biggest cropping volumes coming during the summer months, Government statistics show avocados are the third largest fresh fruit export from New Zealand.

Bhula says there's also the potential for conversion of the 1217 State Highway 14 fattening farm into blueberry production – with potential returns equivalent to green kiwifruit levels.