A commonly perceived lack of investment in the Far North overlooks what some people are doing, and the international recognition they are achieving.
So says Andrea Loggia, and he knows what he's talking about.
As a "worthy example" of such success, he cited the Sovrano Limoncello that he and his family manufacture at Skudder's Beach, near Kerikeri, which had added two more major international awards to its already impressive collection.
The family's Cream Limoncello won gold and was named best buy at the International Beverage Institute Chicago competition, while the original limoncello also won gold and was the top-rated example of the Italian liqueur in the competition.
The awards added to a long history of success that began in 2010, when the company won its first gold medal from the Testing Institute in Chicago, scoring 95 points out of 100 with its '95 Limoncello and '94 Cream Limoncello.
Since then it has amassed 20 awards from internationally-recognised tasting competitions in Chicago, San Francisco, London and Florida, essentially beating home-based Italians at what Mr Loggia described as "their own respectable game".
The full list of awards can be seen at www.limoncello.co.nz.
The key to that success, which was hardly a secret, was Kerikeri lemons, which were ideal for making superior limoncello.
"It's this, as much as the family recipe we use in the manufacture of the product, that has contributed to our considerable competition success rate," Mr Loggia said.
Mr Loggia and his wife Marzia, and their sons Paolo and Stefano, arrived in Kerikeri from Milan in 2007. Their daughter, Izabella, was born in New Zealand six years ago. And in establishing Sovrano Limoncello, they were continuing a Loggia family tradition of liqueur-making.
"Having tasted hundreds of limoncellos, we knew the importance of using fresh, perfect ingredients, and that's what Kerikeri lemons provide. The secret of limoncello must be in the pungent after-taste," Mr Loggia said.
They began by selling their liqueur at markets and local trade shows, but now it is on shelves around New Zealand, and is exported to Australia, the United States and China.
The range has grown too, now including Original and Cream Limoncello, Orangello and Orangello Cream, Caffelisir (a coffee liqueur), chocolate liqueur, walnut liqueur and vodka.
Plans for the future include expanding the orchards and the limoncello facility and production capability, with new equipment due to arrive over the next few weeks and months.
"We need to keep the quality standards at the highest level," Mr Loggia said, "and as we reach more foreign markets we will employ two or three more staff to help us keep productive."