Katikati has been crowned the Avocado Capital of New Zealand, (ACONZ) with a new sign at either end of town staking the claim.

Avocados were pioneered in Katikati, the largest tree is here, the first commercial orchard was established here and with two thirds of the country's growers here, many in the industry believe the title is well overdue.

"We are the avocado capital of New Zealand," said Sheryl Palmer, one of the earlier avocado orchardists in Katikati.

Katikati pioneers the Honeyfields feature in the Our People, Our Story mural. Arthur Honeyfield was known as the avocado pioneer.
Katikati pioneers the Honeyfields feature in the Our People, Our Story mural. Arthur Honeyfield was known as the avocado pioneer.

"With avocados a huge part of our livelihood in Katikati, we need to snaffle the title before the Far North growers do," said Linda Flegg from the Katikati Fruit Growers Association.

Advertisement

For two years Sheryl has been trying various avenues to get a sign stating Katikati was the avocado capital on her property opposite the Forta Leza Restaurant, south of Katikati.

Town promotions manager Jacqui Knight, along with Open-Air Art chairman Steve Graveson and Alan Hay from the Katikati Lions Club, have succeeded in getting a strip sign placed at the bottom of the large signs on either side of the town. Seeka and Apata Packhouse helped fund the sign.

Avocados were pioneered in Katikati by Arthur Honeyfield, who bought several properties in the district and on Matakana Island. Growing vegetables on a large scale he supplied much of the produce shipped to feed the troops stationed in the Pacific.

After the war he became interested in growing avocados, examining the viability of establishing orchards here. He planted hectares of avocado on his properties and encouraged other growers to do the same. Sheryl said they got their first avocado stock from Arthur Honeyfield.

"Katikati still has the best soil for growing avocados."

Kiwifruit grower Stephen Kenna is among a group of local orchardists keen to drive the avocado capital status. He said this was an opportunity waiting to happen. Many towns identify with different objects — Paeroa has the L&P bottle and Te Puke with it's large kiwifruit. This is our opportunity to be named the avocado capital, he said.

"It's great that avocados have a season when events like the Avocado Food and Wine Festival where different community groups and businesses, can get involved." Sheryl agreed.

"People want to be entertained."

Some ideas coming from an informal chat at Dave and Lynne Smith's avocado orchard included putting a large avocado in town that could be an icon for Katikati, playing on the ACONZ abbreviation with an A-Z of what visitors can do in Katikati and using 'avo' as a catchphrase, for instance avo-go, avo-good time, planting an avocado grove in town and promoting avocado-based products like oil, soap and shampoos.

Lynne said after living overseas she could see a change with the development of avocado orchards here.

Jacqui is keen to promote the idea and said NZ Avocado would be providing grower stories that will be played on screen at the new Arts Junction.

"Being the avocado capital also lends itself to colouring competitions and avocado balloons."

Sheryl and Linda are keen to grow the Avocado Expo at the Katikati A&P Show, and bring the horticulture and agriculture communities together.

There will be a public meeting soon inviting everyone with an interest, including businesses involved in the industry, to come on board.