The New Zealand macadamia industry has been characterised by many small plantings, lifestyle blocks up to 1500 trees and two commercial plantations with more than I 0000 trees. Completed research programmes have been few, mainly because government funding in horticulture has been channelled to the needs of the major crops such as kiwifruit. Changes in political policy affected funding for minor horticultural crops and spasmodic cuts in finance severely hindered long-term research projects. Because of its small size the macadamia industry had limited funds available from members but some research programmes have been completed including pest control, tree nutrition, basal stain and future research needs. A private consultant, Ian Gordon has carried out variety trials on a local selection. Several selections have been planted in different locations and have proven to be useful in pollination of Beaumont, the main variety planted in New Zealand.
Within the limits, set by climatic factors, the suitable growing areas are north of a line from New Plymouth to Gisborne. Both of those areas are marginal for commercial planting but sites on the sheltered north facing positions could grow satisfactory yields.
Yields per tree, generally have been below commercial requirements. Bad site selection, over sheltering, wrong variety choices for cross-pollination success, inadequate care with orchard management practices, especially with tree nutrition and pest control, and a general lack in professional planning have contributed to the present situation. There are exceptions, of course, with some orchards and processing plants equalling international standards.
Historical factors have left the local industry in a situation where growth and development have slowed. The reliance on one main variety, Beaumont, and the sale and/or closure of the three commercial enterprises in the decade of the twentieth century severely curtailed growth. This exposed the need for research projects in the search for
new varieties suitable for the cooler New Zealand climate and studies to promote better cross-pollination and final nut set results.
In addition the industry must raise quality standards to meet overseas competition. This country is not self-sufficient in the production of macadamia products and often the local product is much inferior to those imported. There is one processing plant in New Zealand which has quality standards the equal of the overseas competition and there is another one which is modern with high quality machinery but is not working to capacity due to a lack of available nut in shell (NIS). However there are a number of other processors who do not reach the required standards and their products lower the image of the nut as a high value food item. Local packaging is often below international standards and the New Zealand Macadamia Society could raise these issues with its members in an effort to improve sales and marketing results.