If you’re getting ready for a bit of summer gardening, you might be thinking about loading up on fruit plants.
But while you might pick up a few lemon trees or some tomato plants, what you probably won’t find in the shops are kiwifruit vines.
There are two main reasons for that.
For the basic green variety, you can blame – in large part – the PSA virus, which struck the country in 2010.
A spokesperson for King’s Plant Barn says concerns about the kiwifruit virus, and its ability to spread widely, means commercial growers took steps to protect themselves, and decided to stop home gardeners from purchasing plants for domestic use.
There were concerns at the time that the industry could be wiped out.
Incredible Edibles, which produces a lot of the fruit trees and other edible plants for sale in plant shops around the country, says that means that most, if not all, growers chose not to produce kiwifruit plants anymore, because of the regulations.
The production and sale of kiwifruit plants is now controlled by the Kiwifruit Vine Health Authority, which has to licence any nursery that wants to grow kiwifruit.
There are only a small number of certified nurseries around the country that sell for home use and people who buy from them must maintain traceability records.
Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Leanne Stewart says the sale of plants from certified nurseries and sellers is legally controlled with a National Kiwifruit Pathway Management Plan.
Svetla Sofkova-Bobcheva, a senior lecturer in horticulture production at Massey University, says the biosecurity protections for kiwifruit are now also designed to tackle other threats as well as PSA.
She says kiwifruit plants can disseminate PSA even if they don’t have symptoms.
“The whole scheme is really to make sure every plant is produced securely... economically, this single pathogen could be very detrimental, it could cause significant losses. Kiwifruit is a major export for horticulture in New Zealand.”
There are other restrictions on gold and red varieties.
A Zespri spokesperson says a licence is required to grow these.
“Zespri owns the plant variety rights for SunGold Kiwifruit, as well as RubyRed. This means growers must purchase a license to be able to grow Zespri’s proprietary varieties and are bound by a Zespri Kiwifruit Variety Licence which gives growers the right to acquire plant material for growing a variety within the licensed area.”
Gardener Pai Cunningham says she has always wanted to grow kiwifruit but has been told about the rules by a friend who grew plants commercially.
“I understand the need to protect our biodiversity but it would still be nice.”