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HISTORY OF THE KIWIFRUIT INDUSTRY

The year 2004 marks the centennial of the arrival of the Chinese Gooseberry (Arguta deliciosa) (later known as the kiwifruit) to New Zealand.

In January 1904, Isabel (Miss M I) FRASER, who was the headmistress of Wanganui Girls’ College, returned to New Zealand after visiting her sister Katie, (Miss Catherine Graham FRASER) a missionary teacher at the Scottish Mission at Yichang, China.

History records that after Isabel tasted the "Ichang gooseberry" she brought seeds back with her and gave them to Thomas ALLISON, a noted Wanganui solicitor and orchardist. He passed them on to his brother, Alexander ALLISON, also a noted horticulturist. By 1910, Alexander ALLISON had plants producing fruit at his property Letham, at Marangai, State Highway Three, south of Wanganui. These were probably the first kiwifruit plants grown in New Zealand. Letham is now owned by thoroughbred racehorse breeders, owners and trainers Nigel and Adaire Auret, and even though books claim that no trace remains of the original plantings the Aurets dispute this. Tests are to be made on their plants to see if in fact they are the original plantings.

James McGREGOR, also of Wanganui and a friend of Alexander ALLISON, had a major interest in horticulture. He traveled widely including China, and collected plants from all over the world, which he then grew on his property. He was known to have Chinese Gooseberry plants in his orchard but it is uncertain whether these plants came from Alexander ALLISON or whether McGREGOR brought them over himself from China around 1906. (James McGREGOR is remembered in Wanganui today with Kowhai Park, which he was responsible for planting.)

Chinese Gooseberries began to appear in New Zealand horticultural catalogues around 1916. Originally it was marketed as a climbing plant, and later as a fruit “for jams, jellies and fruit salads, it is unsurpassed”. By 1920 plants were offered for sale by a number of nurserymen, including Duncan and Davies of New Plymouth, Bruno JUST of Palmerston North and Hayward WRIGHT of Auckland.

By 1918, the first Chinese Gooseberry plant was said to have been planted in Te Puke. At that time the area was well known for its citrus orchards. In 1934, Mr Jim MacLOUGHLIN purchased a 7-acre lemon and passion fruit orchard in No 3 Road. His neighbour, Vic BAYLISS had two Chinese Gooseberry plants and had sold the fruit for £5:0:0, which was a very good return. Spurred on by this, in 1937 Jim planted ½ acre of his orchard in Chinese Gooseberries (still growing on the Rishon Orchard - Hebrew for Beginning). The fruit was sold mostly to the local market.

During World War Two, American servicemen stationed in New Zealand were introduced to the fruit, which they loved. This encouraged further plantings and by 1952, growers could see that their future lay in exporting. Nobody at that time had much experience in exporting fruit other than apples and there was much trial and error. Growers in the late 1950s and early 1960s were ready to give up because of the poor returns received. However in the late 1960s the industry began to boom with vigorous marketing and a new name, “Kiwifruit”.

Te Puke is known as “The Kiwifruit Capital of the World” and supplies a large percentage of the total New Zealand crop. From modest beginnings with sales to three countries (United Kingdom, United States and Australia) it is now sold to many more with Germany and Japan being amongst the biggest markets. New varieties of Kiwifruit are now grown commercially in the Te Puke region – ZESPRI ® Gold (also known as Hort16A) with its gold centre, and the baby kiwis, Arguta which are small and hairless. New Zealand Kiwifruit is marketed under the ZESPRI ® brand.


OBITUARY FOR MR JACK TURNER - 10 SEPTEMBER 2005 - By STEPHEN FORBES - www.aucklandstuff.co.nz

Jack Turner's death marks the end of an era in New Zealand horticultural history. The 89-year-old Huia landowner played an important role in the firm Turners and Growers, which was founded in 1920. He was also acknowledged as the inspiration behind "turning" chinese gooseberries to the highly-successful kiwifruit. John Penman (Jack) Turner was born on September 1, 1915, at the family home in Mt Albert. His grandparents, Edward and Maude, came to New Zealand from England in 1895 and settled at Huia, where the family still has land. The couple started a fruit and vegetable business with a shop in Auckland's Karangahape Rd and had nine sons, including Jack's father Harvey. Harvey and his brothers held leading roles in the business and eventually decided to merge it with a group of growers. Young Jack started working for Turners and Growers as an auctioneer in 1932 and retired as chairman of the board in 1990. "He had a strong affiliation with the Chinese growers in New Zealand," his son Jeffery says. "A lot of them couldn't speak English and he was someone they could trust."

Jack joined the 27th Machinegun Battalion in 1939 and served in Egypt and Crete during World War Two. He was captured in Crete in 1941 and was taken to Germany, where he spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. Jack married Elaine Lawry on October 2, 1948. His parents were foundation members of the Mt Albert Baptist Church and he was also a devout member of the congregation. "He would pick up a carload of children and bring them to Sunday school every week," Jeffery says. But one of Jack's most significant achievements occurred in 1959, when he coined a new name for the fruit then commonly known as chinese gooseberries. Jack suggested kiwifruit. It stuck and the rest is history. The marketing ploy was designed to please American buyers and to avoid any negative connotations associated with other gooseberry-type fruits prone to ground-borne diseases. Jack was involved in a number of community groups and organisations, including the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, the YMCA and Rotary. In 1983 he was awarded an MBE for his services to business. "He was certainly a man of trust and honour," Jeffery says. "He was extremely honest and was a real gentleman." Jack is survived by his wife, five children and 23 grandchildren. His death coincides with his father Harvey's induction into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.


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