The SH14 block could easily be adapted into an existing large avocado or kiwifruit-growing operation in the area

Part of a pioneering Maungatapere cattle grazing and fattening farm that has been owned by members of the same family for 178 years is up for sale.

The 23ha property was formerly a much bigger dairy farm known as Crystal Springs which was the first pedigree Jersey stud in Northland, breeding cattle brought out from Britain.

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

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However, a rural land sales specialist says the predominantly flat terrain of the site, combined with rich volcanic silt loam soils, a temperate climate and good rainfall indicate the best future use of the block would be for horticultural production rather than traditional pastoral farming.

The block at 1217 State Highway 14 at Maungatapere is being sold by tender through Bayleys Whangarei, with tenders closing on November 29.

Bayleys' rural sales specialist Vinni Bhula said the evolution of cropping alternatives in many parts of New Zealand meant more money could be earned by moving away from grazing cattle and sheep on fertile volcanic soil pastures.

The conversion trend was particularly evident at Maungatapere where many former dairy units had been converted into avocado and kiwifruit orchards 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 use of shared cropping and packhouse facilities and resources," Bhula said.

The block has an old hay barn, a three-bay implement shed, a smaller workshop, and a 140 square metre three-bedroom home. Irrigation on the property comes from a 79m-deep six-inch bore with consent to draw up to 80,000 cubic metres of water annually.

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 about 2500 commercial growers operating 3000 registered orchards on 12,000ha. Of that area 4600ha is planted in the high value SunGold G3 variety which has prompted marketing body Zespri to increase the allocation for planting this variety from 400ha 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 said.

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 the third biggest market.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has about 1400 commercial avocado growers producing the third largest fresh fruit export from New Zealand.

Bhula said well managed avocado orchards at Maungatapere were achieving orchard gate returns of $45,000-$60,000/ha, while green kiwifruit orchards in there were achieving $60,000/ha, and gold kiwifruit orchards were returning $120,000/ha.

Whangarei district has about 811ha planted in commercial avocado production, with most blocks being in the two to six-hectare range. Meanwhile, the district has about 419ha planted in commercial kiwifruit production, with most blocks being in the one to six-hectare range.

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