Chairman’s report 2010

By Murray Redpath

Delivered to the HGA AGM, 3 June 2010

In late October I attended the annual conference of the Hazelnut Growers of Australia and gave a talk on “The Development of the NZ Hazelnut Industry”. I spent a few days before the conference staying with Basil and Jean Baldwin in central New South Wales. Basil and Jean visited Canterbury in 2006 and spoke at the HGANZ AGM. Basil is semi-retired but still does some work at the Charles Sturt University in Orange. One of his recently completed projects was a guide to the identification of hazelnut varieties grown in Australia.

The last year has been busy for the Hazelnut Growers Association of NZ, with an active research programme, organizing a visit by an overseas hazel adviser, and maintaining the flow of information via the website and newsletters. Your committee has continued to hold meetings via email whenever a meeting has been required. These seem to work well and are being refined as we develop the system. If detailed discussions are needed, then telephone conference calls are now very competitively priced.

My thanks to all the committee members. Jenny has kept our meetings well recorded and Sarah has provided you all with interesting informative newsletters, as well as trying to keep the Growers Manual on track. Thanks to you all for your dedication to growing this organization.

Some committee members have chosen not to stand for reappointment this year. Alan wishes to step down as treasurer, having done an excellent job in this position since the formation of HGANZ. Thank you for your contribution, Alan, and the many field days and Annual General Meeting weekends that you have organized. Willy wishes to stand down from the committee but is willing to stay on as webmaster, an offer we will accept given his skills in this area. Linda. Thanks for your help and especially the copies of the Acta Hort. hazel proceedings. I am wading my way through them and will summarize the most relevant papers for the newsletter. Blake. Thanks for your help and offer to assist with any orchard trials. David Null has ended a long association with the HGANZ committee. Thank you, David, for your dedication over the last eight years.

We need a certain number of members on the committee to carry out the day to day administration, but I hope that we can call on other members with special areas of expertise to help with specific tasks. For example, if we continue to apply for research grants, then a separate research subcommittee would be useful to administer all projects rather than having separate committees formed for each application.

Indications are that the last harvest was the largest ever for most growers. Time will tell whether this increased yield is due largely to increased maturity of the orchards or to good growing season. However, the increased crop of the last two years has certainly highlighted the need to look at efficient harvesting systems and how to market an increasing crop.

It is difficult for small industries to access significant research funding and the the recent budget does not seem to assist us at all. It was pleasing to see that the MAF Sustainable Farming Fund has received increased funding after last year’s cuts. I will briefly summarize our research progress here and we can discuss the projects in more detail after the AGM. The seven pollination workshops held last winter as part of the Sustainable Farming Fund project on hazel pollination were well attended by 155 HGANZ and NZTCA members, plus members of the general public. Thanks to all those members who hosted or helped run the workshops. This project continues, with the second part on identifying hazel varieties nearly complete. The final report is due at the end of June.

We have continued to move our research programme forward by successfully applying for a further grant from the MAF Sustainable Farming Fund. This 3 year project, titled “Establishing polliniser recommendations and realistic yield data for NZ hazelnut orchards” will collect and analyze data on flowering times and yields. The aim is to find out what is actually happening out in your orchards. This will help identify possible factors influencing the performance of your orchards to allow us to provide better advice. It will also help to identify areas that require more research. Success in this project is very dependent on growers willingness to collect and contribute flowering and yield information.

The HGANZ assisted to bring Professor Jeff Olsen to New Zealand to attend the 2010 NZ Tree Crops Association conference. A meeting for HGANZ members was arranged for Easter Monday at the BHU facility at Lincoln. This was well attended by 33 members despite the short notice given. I hope that members benefited from the visit. Professor Olsen has given permission to use the material contained in his presentations, with suitable acknowledgement. I would welcome any feedback on this visit to help improve the benefits of future visits by overseas speakers.

Professor Olsen’s airfares and conference costs were sponsored by Agmardt, the Wellington branch of NZTCA, and HGANZ. The pre-and post – conference trips were sponsored by Wairata Forest Farm. Thanks to Malcolm and Sarah Shore, Sjef and Sonja Lamers, Malcolm and Jenny Horwell, Les and Linda McCracken, and Toni Elliot for their hospitality during these trips. Also, thanks to all the growers who allowed us to visit their orchards for their wonderful hospitality.

I attended the annual conference of the Hazelnut Growers of Australia in late October last year, giving a presentation on “The development of the NZ hazelnut Industry”. I was able to visit some of the research sites and talk with Basil Baldwin and Lester Snare who have carried out most of the hazel research in Australia. Their industry is much the same size as ours but they are better resourced and able to access reasonable funding for research. They can also leverage off the work carried out by the other larger Australian nut industries. Australia is a large and wealthy market but it is also a potential competitor with plans for large plantings in Tasmania.

It is encouraging to see the rise in membership over the last two years. Our membership subscription is modest compared to other similar organizations and the increased membership allows increased options when trying to access funding for projects. We do need to consider the changes occurring in the industry and how best to respond to them. When the HGANZ was formed in 2002, most of its members were in Canterbury. Our members are now spread throughout the South Island. How do we provide the service that our members want? What services do they want? What is the role of the HGANZ within the NZ hazelnut industry? Should we be defining our role, our goals, and drawing up a strategic plan to reach those goals?

Let us consider those questions after the AGM.