NZ industry update: Uncle Joes and Hazelz NZ

In 2021, two of New Zealand’s larger hazelnut processors changed ownership. Uncle Joes, located just outside Blenheim, is now owned and managed by Debbie Whiteside and Alan Crawford.  Hazelz New Zealand, near Christchurch, is now run by Shane McKenzie.

Over the next few newsletters, we’ll be introducing the new owners to you.

Debbie Whiteside & Alan Crawford – Uncle Joes

Please tell us a bit about your personal background.

Alan is from Mosgiel where he got a solid Catholic education, including how to avoid the bullies on the train to St Pauls in town.  In the live band heyday, he was a bass player who played around the lower South Island in a few bands, and even did some TV and radio recording.  Not particularly gifted in the sporting area but handy at aiming things – guns, bows – especially if there is a rabbit in the sights. Deb grew up in semi-rural south Auckland with a minor Catholic education before migrating in phases to the North Shore.  Not at all gifted in the musical area but was handy at touch rugby and repetitive lifting and pushing things at gyms before knees objected.  We met later in life via the government department we have both worked at for a long in various roles.  We moved to Blenheim after 17 years in Seatoun, Wellington. Our families are scattered around NZ so takes a bit of organising to get together.

What attracted you to your new property?

Space, trees and a beautiful location (Grovetown), with the opportunity to do something quite different. And bore water. Also the 110 year old villa.  We had not long holidayed in Marlborough and Kaikoura and loved it.  Alan was idly checking out properties online – we recognised it from Jenny and Mal Horwell’s Country Calendar episode and decided to come down for a look.  It was mid winter but still a lovely place to be, even with a bare orchard. Saffi the cat did a subtle sell job too. Chickens indifferent.

Since you took over your property, what is one unexpected thing that you have discovered or realised?

An unexpected bounty of apricots from Jenny and Mal’s strategic planting over many years – wasn’t apparent in our winter viewings so a delightful surprise. Plus the Opaoa river used to run across the property – the October floods gave a glimpse of what that would have been like by filling up the old bed for a few days. Last thing – a fat possum in a tree right outside the house looking very at home. It will be moving on!

What are some of your interests outside horticulture?

Alan still plays bass at times including on a talented nephew’s self produced albums, and is usually head-phone crowned listening to a big range of new music while Deb reads a lot. We both love exploring the hills and trails around the district on foot and bike (well not so much bike for Alan).  Enjoying the company of thin-blooded giraffes Steve and Cieran – family who returned from Darwin to help run things with us as we still have our other jobs. And catching up with other family around the country when things Covid allow.

Debbie and Alan with Uncle Joe’s previous owners, Jenny and Malcolm Horwell
L-R: Jenny, Debbie, Alan, Malcolm