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30 June 2021

Rocking into Gisborne

Rockit on a roll! 40,000 apple trees, 20 jobs for Gisborne

Innovative New Zealand apple company Rockit Global Limited (RGL) is expanding into Gisborne, planting 20 hectares of its miniature apple variety and creating at least 20 jobs. The move north of its Hawke’s Bay base comes amid an exponential growth period for the company, which currently packs over 100 million apples per year from its new global headquarters and state of the art packhouse in Hastings. With export markets crying out for increased supply of the sweet snack-sized apple, and a need to manage the risk associated with having most of its orchards in one region, RGL went hunting for fertile new ground to break, finding it in Tairawhiti. Chris Hurrey, Rockit Management Services (RMS) General Manager, says 40,000 RMS managed trees are ready to go in the ground this winter, filling 20 hectares just minutes from the city centre. “In New Zealand, we’re prone to adverse weather events and environmental factors,” he says. “It’s important to diversify our crop and spread our risk across several sites. Due to the slight difference in climate, establishing an orchard in Gisborne also allows us to provide early fruit to export markets hungry for access to our product as soon as it’s available.” But the 20 hectares already earmarked for Rockit is just the beginning. The company has signed up a further 45 hectares with independent growers where Rockit™ apples will be planted this year. “We’ve been delighted with the support we have received from the region’s growers”. Chris says growing conditions in the region are perfect for Rockit. “Each growing area has different characteristics, but we’re expecting ripe, sweet fruit with good colour. Gisborne is a proven horticultural region – one we’re excited to be a part of.” Rockit’s newest orchard will create a raft of senior and mid-level roles, as well as a large number of seasonal roles. “We’re in the early stages of establishing a management team, but we’ll also need orchard workers. This will open up a lot of opportunities for seasonal labour as well as full-time staff.” Finding a skilled Orchard Manager is top priority. “We’re looking for someone who is great at working independently, self-motivated and disciplined – a person with a high level of horticultural experience. This is a prime opportunity for the right person,” says Chris. Gisborne fruit will be packed at Te Ipu, Rockit’s 21,000m2 packhouse and coolstore. “But if we get enough volume, we may look at establishing a second packhouse in Gisborne or Wairoa.” Millions of tubes of Rockit™ apples – the globally trademarked name for the PremA96 miniature apple variety - currently leave New Zealand bound for 30 countries across America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The brand is associated with flavour, colour and convenience, and is sold internationally in grocery stores, vending machines and even amusement parks. By 2025, Rockit expects to be picking and packing well over 400 million apples annually. CEO Mark O’Donnell says developing new orchards not just in New Zealand, but around the globe, will continue, as demand for Rockit™ apples continues to swell. “A move into Tairawhiti helps support our growth, but it’s also a chance to put down roots in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful regions,” says Mark. “There’s so much energy, innovation and enthusiasm in Gisborne, and it’s already attracting an influx of highly skilled people from around the country, looking for a family friendly lifestyle and more sunshine hours. It’s really exciting to expand our business into Gisborne thanks to the support of local growers, and we are thrilled to become part of the story.”