Fruitgrowing in New Zealand
By Gerald Ward M. A.
Published by the
Reviewed by Charlie
Perhaps it is a symptom
of New Zealand's increasing maturity, that recent years have seen
a much greater awareness of the early development of horticulture
in this country. In 1984, Helen Leach wrote "1000 years of gardening
in New Zealand" and Thelma Strongman, "The Gardens of Canterbury"
whilst in 1985 the R.N.Z.I.H. initiated a Garden History workshop.
Under the sponsorship of the Historic Places Trust, Matthew Bradbury
edited the more broad-based 'A History of the Garden in New Zealand'.
However, the origins of more utilitarian aspects of horticulture
as opposed to aesthetic, have been largely undocumented until now.
It is therefore a pleasure
to welcome Gerald Ward's contribution, dealing specifically with
the history of fruit-growing in Canterbury. No-one could be more
suited to the task, for he has been directly connected with the
fruit-growing industry as a grower for 26 years, acted as Dominion
President of the New Zealand Fruit-growers Federation for 4 years,
and in 1983 was awarded a CBE for services to the industry. These
wide connections have allowed him to draw upon an amazingly broad
range of contacts, from the families of growers now long deceased,
to scientists and academics concerned with the establishment of
Perhaps the limitations
of coverage Early Fruit-growing in Canterbury - may deter
those seeking broader fields. There is no need, for despite an understandable
regional emphasis Ward worked and lives in Canterbury
the wide picture is not ignored. Two chapters in particular, which
deal with the roles of central government and the contribution of
the evolving scientific research establishments make fascinating
reading. There is a strong feeling of 'deja vu' when one compares
recent government attitudes to those of the past. A scientist needs
to be bloody-minded as well as a good researcher to achieve his
ends, and one admires for example the attainments of T. W. Kirk
in the negative atmosphere of his time which Gerald Ward documents.
The bulk of the book
is concerned with the fruit-growers themselves, their struggles
against climate, soil, pest and disease, limited knowledge and resources,
economic conditions, market problems, and their "bootstraps tenacity
at overcoming difficulties". As well as discussing specific regions
favoured by growers, a few families, who are still active after
the third or fourth generation are discussed in detail. We gain
a keen insight into their self-reliant approach to earning a living.
Today, we are so accustomed to back-up of all sorts, that it is
difficult to visualise an industry where even such fundamentals
as sprays and sprayers had to be "home-grown", or where advice on
pest and disease control was non-existent. Yet at the same time,
growers were experimenting with exporting crops to Britain
and at their own expense!
Communal effort was essential
to their progress, through, for example, the Canterbury Fruit-growers
Association, founded in 1886. This helped growers directly, and
in lobbying for Governmental assistance. Ward has documented all
fruit growers throughout Canterbury from this era roughly
through to 1930 and although I found a certain tediousness
involved in the thoroughness of this coverage, the total resource
of information is quite invaluable. As an example, he has collated
all the fruit varieties apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines
and cherries, 11 pages in all which were grown in Canterbury
in these years, relating them back to their sources and the New
Zealand nurserymen who grew them. A marvellous resource for some
future research worker! Ward also draws parallels between the industries
in New Zealand, Tasmania, America and Canada, and Britain, which
show that despite our self-help approach we were far from being
a poor relation. As an Englishman, who has worked in the apple orchards
in Kent one of the heartland areas of British fruit-growing
I was most interested to appreciate the almost parallel advancement
of the two areas.
This must not be the
end of the road we need more studies of similar depth, covering
other fruit-growing districts of New Zealand. From such accounts
the essence can then be distilled, to provide a coherent account
of the evolution of the valuable national resource which the New
Zealand fruit-growing industry now represents.
Zealand Garden Journal: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute
of Horticulture 1996 1(4): 24
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