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Kiwifruit orchards to be registered for spray use

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 10:00 a.m.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is registering kiwifruit orchards across the region on its Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL) database.

HAIL was created by the Ministry for the Environment and includes 53 activities and industries that could potentially cause soil contamination on land. Orchard land is included because it would have been used to bulk store or use persistent pesticides like arsenic and copper-based sprays.

The list includes sports turfs, market gardens, orchards, glass houses and spray sheds, and includes about 3,000 kiwifruit orchards in the Bay of Plenty. Pesticide sprays can affect human health at elevated levels, especially when they accumulate in soils. Copper is a contaminant when it enters waterways, affecting aquatic and marine life.

Regional Council Project Implementation Officer Reece Irving said registration on the HAIL database did not mean land was contaminated.

“The implication for kiwifruit orchard owners is that if there is a future change in land use, such as converting the orchard into a residential subdivision, the site will have to be investigated and soil samples may need to be tested,” he said.

“At the time of a change in use the landowner will have to prove the site soils are suitable for the proposed new use, and will not cause any adverse effects on human health or the environment. As long as the orchard remains in production landowners are not required to undertake any site investigation or soil testing. This only needs to be done if the use changes.”

The Regional Council is writing to the owners of all orchard land later this month. Landowners will receive a letter and a site report outlining the information held on each site. Landowners will then have time to respond to the information the Regional Council holds if they think the information is inaccurate.

Once the Council and the landowner have agreed the information held is correct, that the land was or is still a kiwifruit orchard where horticultural sprays have been used, the record forms part of the Land Information Memorandum (LIM) for the site.

“Although we’re starting with kiwifruit, we are also registering avocado orchards and commercial glass houses. Owners of these properties will be informed soon.”

Mr Irving said because so many orchards had begun to sell up their land for subdivision following the Psa outbreak, elevated amounts of spray residues were being discovered as land was converted.

“We have started to identify orchards which were more likely to be subdivided either now or in the future, particularly in areas of growth such as Katikati, Omokoroa, Te Puna and Bethlehem.”

The Council is working closely with Zespri, which represents almost all growers in the Bay of Plenty, and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated to inform growers and orchard owners about the project and growers would be well aware of the need to register their land.

“This is being done all over the country, particularly in Hawkes Bay, Tasman, Marlborough, Nelson and Canterbury where land has been used for horticulture. While a current owner may not have used sprays on their property, earlier uses could indicate spray use.”

Frequently asked questions about the project are on Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s website.

Kiwifruit vines