Artist: Marc Spijkerbosch, Rotorua

Year: 2011

Medium: Acrylic on Ali Panel

Size: 69 sq m.

Sponsored By: Aongatete, KauriPak, Zespi, Mural Town Twilight Concerts, Birchwood, Katikati Lions, WBOPDC, AG First, Western Orchards, Fruitfed

This is an extremely large mural, painted in ‘trompe l’oeil’ style, it depicts the history of the kiwifruit industry and some of the leading figures involved in the industry’s development both from Katikati and New Zealand.

The kiwifruit industry has had an enormous impact on Katikati and the Western Bay of Plenty in terms of land use, employment and the economy. Here is an artist’s interpretation of how kiwifruit developed from a backyard novelty into today’s billion dollar industry.

Katikati’s first vines were planted around 1952 and by the late 1970′s many dairy farms had been carved up for orchards. Early Hayward vines were grown on T-Bars and small packhouses (often family based) sprang up all over the district. By 1978 New Zealand earned $10 million a year from kiwifruit exports. But in 1987 the price per tray plummeted from $9.79 to $5.20 and many growers faced bankruptcy. Fiery debate followed and in 1988 growers opted for single desk control of exports, setting up the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board.

When prices plummeted again in the early 1990′s some vines were pulled out, but most growers persevered, battling occasional gales, frosts and hail, maintaining New Zealand’s reputation as a world leader in Kiwifruit. By now most vines were grown on pergola structures. In 1994 New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. was formed, a major industry review took place and the now famous Zespri brand was launched in 1997.

A new and profitable Gold variety Hort 16A, was introduced in 1998 transforming the industry, and further new varieties were introduced in 2010. In the same year the deadly vine disease Psa was discovered in Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty, this has become a major challenge for the industry, the very week this mural was dedicated the first Katikati orchard was discovered with the Psa disease.

Today, in 2011, New Zealand kiwifruit earns around $1 billion annually with the Katikati district alone producing over 12 million trays from around 1500 hectares. Hand grading of fruit has been superseded by the latest infra-red technology and automation. In Katikati there are around 7 major post-harvest facilities and much of our seasonal labour force now comes from overseas.

The artist Marc Spijkerbosch, is New Zealand’a leading “trompe l’ oeil” artist and has produced many artworks both here in New Zealand and overseas.