It was indeed a "slow train" which brought the kiwifruit industry pioneering Burt family from Wairarapa to Te Puke in 1942.

"We left Featherston station at 5 o'clock one evening and arrived in Te Puke at about 5 or 6pm the next day," recalls Ray Burt, who was 10 when his parents Harold Robert Burt (known as Barney) and mother Olive (known as Dolly) brought their children — Ray, Bob and Pam — to the Bay of Plenty.

"The railcar took us from Featherston to Palmerston North where we caught the overnight train to Hamilton. We had pillows but had to sleep in our seats," Ray says.

"In Hamilton we caught the Taneatua Express which went through Paeroa and Katikati and eventually to Te Puke. Our family was met by local taxi driver Tata Grey who took us to our uncle's house."


The story of how the family went on to convert a farm in No 3 Rd from dairy to kiwifruit, following the lead of Jim MacLoughlin and the Bayliss brothers is among those told in the book Seeds of Success — the stories of New Zealand's Kiwifruit Pioneers.

Commissioned by New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc to mark its 25th anniversary, and written by award-winning rural journalist Elaine Fisher, the book traces the stories of growers who have helped shape the highly successful kiwifruit industry.

"Passionfruit, tomatoes, beans, tree tomatoes, watermelon, sweetcorn and boysenberries were grown during conversion as cash crops to bring in an income. The orchard in No 3 was the first to be contoured to make it flat enough to grow kiwifruit," says John Burt, son of Bob.

By the mid-1970s all the family land was in kiwifruit and brothers Bob and Ray began growing kiwifruit in their own right, going into partnership in the construction and operation of a packhouse in No 3 Rd.

Bob, who died aged 84 in 2011, was described as a "well known Te Puke character" for his outgoing personality, involvement in both the growing and political side of the kiwifruit industry, and for his harness horse-racing hobby.

"In the late 1970s Dad visited the South Island and came home with a horse, a trotter, and that was the start of his hobby," says son John. Bob went on to breed and train harness horses and had a racetrack constructed on the Mark Rd orchard.

"He did pretty well and had more than 80 winners. Dad named horses after Te Puke locals, including Jim MacLoughlin and Barney Burt (for his own father) and Lucky Olivia — for a granddaughter. He was patron of the Bay of Plenty Horse Racing Club."

"The Burt family story is just one of the inspiring personal stories in the book which are a reflection of the people who have made, and continue to make, the New Zealand kiwifruit industry the success that it is," says Elaine.


The book also records how today's major and sophisticated post-harvest companies have emerged to replace the small, simple packhouses once found on nearly every orchard.

The heady boom times of the 1970s and the exporters involved in launching New Zealand kiwifruit on the international stage also feature and the crisis years of the late 1980s to mid-1990s are told through the eyes of those who helped pull the industry back from the brink of disaster.

Attractively designed, with excellent use of images, this book is an engaging read and an important record of one of the world's most successful, and newest fresh fruit industries.

Seeds of Success — the stories of New Zealand's Kiwifruit Pioneers is due to be launched on July 3, 2019 in Tauranga as part of NZKGI's anniversary celebrations. Pre-orders of the book which costs $30 per book (includes shipping within NZ) can be made at the website