The Pukekohe hub encompasses Paerata and Patumahoe to the north, Aka Aka to the west, Pokeno to the east, and borders on Onewhero and Pukekawa to the south. It comprises 4,359 hectares of some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive soils. A lot of growing occurs outside the hub, and produce is transported into the area for processing. The hub’s temperate, forgiving climate, and proximity to key transport routes, means it’s ideally placed to provide year-round vegetables to our biggest and fastest-growing city, Auckland.
It is a small area – just 0.01% of the size of Auckland. And while Pukekohe accounts for just 3.8% of the country’s land under fruit and vegetable production, it contributes to 26% of the nation’s value of production of vegetables, and a lesser proportion of fruit.
The hub largely focuses on vegetable growing and processing for the domestic market, particularly potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage), tomatoes and onions – of which its Longkeeper onion variety is worldfamous. Kiwifruit are also grown, largely for export.
While urban sprawl in rural towns with close proximity to major cities is not unusual, the impact on the Pukekohe hub is. The loss of productive land to urbanisation in the hub is not just a landuse change issue, but one of food security.
The bulk of the Pukekohe hub’s produce goes to Auckland. The city is expected to be home to 2.3 million people by 2043 – up 37% on 2018. This, coupled with changing consumer preferences for sustainable produce and plant-based diets, means the hub is well-placed to meet growing demand. Yet there is less land available for cultivation, and a widening disconnect between New Zealanders and their food sources. With further growth in supply potentially constrained, and demand rising, the country runs the real risk of not being able to provide its own population with adequate and affordable fruit and vegetables, unless New Zealanders understand the value and contribution made by growing areas, such as the Pukekohe hub, and manage them effectively.