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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Apples and Pears

Apples and pears were first introduced into New Zealand in 1819 by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, who planted trees, brought from New South Wales, on the Church Missionary Society's station established earlier that year at Kerikeri, Bay of Islands. In 1835 the Society reported that apples and pears were flourishing on a number of their stations in the North Island.

Growth of Commercial Production

Domestic orchards supplied the needs of the growing colony from 1840 until crops became seriously affected by introduced pests and diseases. Towards the end of the century the increasing demand for fruit led to the wide establishment of semicommercial orchards, but, due to ignorance of disease control, the yield was poor. The passing of the Orchard and Garden Pests Act in 1903 and the Diseases Act in 1908 led to increased production. In 1899 the first trial shipment of apples and pears to the United Kingdom, carried in cool storage by the S.S. Papanui from Lyttelton, had earned a fair price, and returns from a Nelson shipment in 1910 were also encouraging. With prospects of an export market, and a good local demand, apple and pear orchards expanded rapidly from 1910 to 1916 and for several years after the First World War. Exports, temporarily interrupted by the war, rose from the pre-war figure of 68,000 bushels to 112,000 bushels in 1922. The industry has now become firmly established. (In 1964 apple orchards covered 8,790 acres; pear, 1,445 acres.)

Apples are commercially produced successfully over a 750-mile range of latitude, with a consequent great variety of climates. The main apple districts of Nelson and Hawke's Bay are extremely sunny, with a moderate rainfall, which makes them especially suitable for this crop. Auckland, almost subtropical, and Central Otago, semi-arid with hot summers and cold winters, are the northern and southern limits of commercial apple growing. Central Otago and Marlborough apple orchards need irrigation; in other districts there is enough rain for tree growth and cropping, though irrigation is becoming more used in the drier areas. Late spring frosts often cause damage in Central Otago, and orchard heating with oil-burning firepots is then essential to protect crops. In some years damaging frosts strike Canterbury and Hawke's Bay. Apples are grown on soils ranging from sandy loams to shallow clays. The clays predominate in Nelson and Auckland orchards and those of part of the Loburn area north of Christchurch. In Hawke's Bay and most other districts the soils are alluvial and more fertile.

The average annual production of apples for 1960–64 was 4,670,000 bushels, an increase of 28 per cent over the preceding four-year average. The following table shows production in the main districts:

Average Annual Production of Apples, 1960–64
(000 bushels)
Nelson-Marlborough 2,214
Hawke's Bay 1,386
Auckland 414
Central Otago 275
Canterbury 251
Other districts 130
Total 4,670

Exports for the same period averaged about two million bushels. The balance of the crop supplies the local markets from January to early December by means of long-term cool storage of late varieties. Processing factories take up to 460,000 bushels annually.

Harvest runs from January to May. The main varieties in order, with months in which harvesting begins are: January – Gravenstein; February – Cox's Orange Pippin, Kidd's Orange Red, Ballarat Seedling; March – Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Delicious; April – Sturmer Pippin, Rome Beauty, Granny Smith, Dougherty.


Pears are usually grown with apples, and in the same districts. Pears, being more tolerant of water than apples, are usually planted on the orchard flats. The average annual production of pears for 1960–64 was 843,000 bushels. Hawke's Bay (390,000) and Nelson (264,000) are important pear districts. The quantity of pears exported varies from about 20,000 bushels in light-crop years up to 150,000 in heavy. The local market is supplied from late January to December by cool storage of late varieties. About 140,000 bushels a year are processed, Williams' Bon Chretien being the main variety canned. Pears are harvested from January to April in this order of main varieties: William's Bon Chretien, Louise Bonne de Jersey, Packham's Triumph, Beurre Bosc, Winter Cole, P. Barry, Kieffer's Hybrid, and Winter Nelis.


Quinces thrive in all parts of the country, but commercial production is relatively unimportant. The average annual crop (chiefly Smyrna) is 20,000 bushels, produced mainly in Auckland and Hawke's Bay. By 1964 the area in quinces was 24 acres.


The Apple and Pear Marketing Act of 1948 vests the purchase and marketing of the apple and pear crop in the New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board, on which the Government and producers are represented. Growers are organised in many district associations affiliated to a national body, the New Zealand Fruitgrowers' Federation Ltd.

by Charles Edwin Woodhead, Horticultural Advisory Officer (Pip Fruit), Department of Agriculture, Palmerston North.

  • Orchardist of New Zealand (Supplement), Mar 1960, “Official Survey of the Fruitgrowing Industry of New Zealand (1958)”
  • Ibid., Feb 1956, “A Review of the Chief Commercial Apple and Pear Varieties Grown in New Zealand”, Woodhead, C. E.
  • New Zealand Journal of Agriculture, Vol. 98, Jan, Feb, 1959, “History of Fruitgrowing in Nelson”, Adamson, N. J.