Ribbon cutting by New Zealand minister for regional development Shane Jones officially opens multi-year greenhouse project  

LeaderBrand has officially opened its completed 11ha greenhouse project in Tairāwhiti with an opening ceremony attended by New Zealand’s minister for regional development, Shane Jones. 

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Shane Jones, minister for regional development, was joined by local dignities, including the mayor

In a bid to boost regional development in Tairāwhiti, the Provincial Development Unit (now Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit) approved a Provincial Growth Fund loan for the project in 2019. 

The project aims to accelerate more sustainable crop growth year-round by helping mitigate weather impacts, significantly reducing fertiliser and water usage as well as protecting soil structure. It also contributes to job security and supports Tairāwhiti’s NZ$62.5m horticulture industry.    

Shane Jones, minister for regional development was joined by local dignities, including the mayor, to officially open the greenhouses with a ribbon cutting, before taking a tour of the facility.   

The day before the opening ceremony the LeaderBrand Future Farm site was blessed by Morehu Pewhairangi of Te Aitanga a Mahaki iwi in a private ceremony with the greenhouse team.   

Richard Burke, LeaderBrand chief executive, said without the support of Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit the company would never have been able to take on a project of this scale.   

“The size and magnitude of this build was well beyond what we could have achieved without this financial support,” he said. “We had already invested heavily in our salad processing business and additional land – the covered house was the next strategic step. The regional fund has enabled us to complete our goal.” 

Burke said the greenhouse is not only an investment into the LeaderBrand business but the region as a whole.  

“It has also ensured that we can guarantee the supply of leafy greens year-round,” he said. “Ensuring food security and finding more ways to feed Kiwis with healthy and affordable fresh produce is a big motivator for all of us.” 

With the success of the project, Burke said LeaderBrand is considering more covered growing options. 

“This has been a highly successful pilot and now we’re excited to look at investing into more covered fields and how we can include more of our crops into the covered growing programme,” he said.  “We’ll also be testing and utilising new technology from the house for both our indoor and outdoor programmes which ultimately, will enable us to extend our domestic and export offerings.”   

With the completion of the covered greenhouse, LeaderBrand has now added the production of wild rocket to its salad range. 

“The unique and controlled environment of the greenhouse allows us to grow delicate salad leaves like spinach and wild rocket, protecting the plants from the elements. Traditionally, it is difficult to grow rocket throughout winter, but the benefit of the greenhouse will ensure consistency of supply throughout the year,” Burke said. 

“All our team are incredibly proud to have the facility officially opened by minister Jones. It has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this stage. Not even a global pandemic, MIQ issues, freight delays, Covid-19 and a lot of terrible weather, has stopped us delivering on this goal.”   

Head of Kānoa, Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, Robert Pigou, also attended the event and said he was extremely proud to see this ambitious project now complete and operational. 

“LeaderBrand’s covered houses are an excellent example of what investing in the regions can accomplish,” he said. “The Provincial Growth Fund was designed to help support rural businesses, just like this one, to expand, innovate and create more jobs.” 

Pigou said the community benefits were already clear, particularly for New Zealand’s food security, especially during extreme weather events. 

“Well done to all the LeaderBrand team for what they have achieved here, they should be exceptionally proud,” he said.