Kiwifruit production in Kerikeri will be boosted by more than a third and 29 full-time jobs will be created when a 137ha dairy farm is converted into a huge orchard.
The move comes as the horticulture boom gathers pace in Northland with kiwifruit and avocados especially fetching good prices and dairy losing some of its lustre.
Monday's announcement came after the Overseas Investment Office gave Craigmore Permanent Crop the green light to buy the Wiroa Rd dairy farm, near Bay of Islands Airport, as well as properties in Hawke's Bay, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.
The company is planning to spend $38 million developing the orchard.
The news has been welcomed by the Kerikeri Fruitgrowers' Association with president Rick Curtis saying it was ''good for the industry and good for the district''.
''Craigmore is a substantial, professional player. They'll bring a lot of skill and expertise along with revenue and employment.''
The company's long-term investment reflected ''very bullish'' prices and confidence in the industry's future, Curtis said.
Craigmore was started in 2008 by two Kiwi farmers and has a mix of dairy, grazing, forestry and orchards totalling 15,000ha across the North and South islands.
They set up Craigmore Permanent Crop Limited Partnership in 2016 as vehicle for overseas firms keen to invest in apples, wine and kiwifruit. Ownership is split between Hong Kong, Germany and the UK plus minor shareholders from other countries, but operations are managed by Craigmore Sustainables in New Zealand.
Chief executive Che Charteris said one of the company's core values was ''right land, right use''.
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''New Zealand has vast areas of land that are well suited to grazing livestock, but there are also some areas that should be converted to horticulture and forestry.''
Access to capital, however, was often a barrier, hence the overseas investment.
The company had bought land in Kerikeri because it had some of the best soils and irrigation in the country.
If the Wiroa Rd farm hadn't been converted to horticulture it would have been used for housing and good growing land would have been lost, he said.
''We need to create employment and stop building on good soils,'' he said.
Work was already well under way to convert pasture on both sides of Wiroa Rd with the first crop of mostly gold kiwifruit expected in 2021.
The company planned to use existing packing facilities in Kerikeri. To avoid future labour shortages it was considering how to make smarter use of its workforce and make the industry more attractive.
Craigmore was also looking at opportunities in Kaikohe and further north.
The firm still had about $50m to spend and was looking for minority investments in existing horticultural businesses, helping to diversify the economy and address soil and water challenges, as well reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The land is near the intersection of Wiroa Rd and Waimate North Rd, just west of the airport.
It is not only within the area of Kerikeri Irrigation System, built as a Think Big project in the 1980s, it is a stone's throw from the system's main reservoir, Lake Waingaro.
Craigmore's investment comes just months after Bay of Plenty-based Seeka spent $18.6m upgrading the former Turners and Growers packing facility in Kerikeri. The upgraded plant is expected to process 2 million trays of kiwifruit his season but has a capacity of 4 million.
Further north, on the Aupōuri Peninsula, other firms are investing heavily in avocado orchards, and just last week the Government announced a $2.4m Provincial Growth Fund loan to a Maungatapere business expanding its berry growing operation.
The investor putting up the money for Craigmore's latest acquisitions is German firm Silvanus Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH.