Zealong’s demise ‘greatly’ exaggerated

Gordonton tea exporters Zealong Tea says rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated after news broke it had sold part of its estate on Borman Rd.

Spokeswoman Gigi Crawford says the company had been flooded with supportive phone calls, as well as cancellations for the teahouse on Gordonton Rd.

Number 8 Network was in Wellington on Saturday, buying tea from a specialty shop, and noticed boxes of Zealong’s product on the shelves behind the counter. On mentioning it to the assistant, we were told Zealong was closing down and that was probably the last shipment available.

The original story in the Waikato Times was clear that the Gordonton operation would continue and would even be developed further. In a follow-up story today (Monday 9 September) Ms Crawford said people had assumed the worst.

The eleven hectares on Borman Rd have been sold to a developer and bulldozers are due in November.
Hamilton City Council had cautioned the company that further chopper use to combat frost damage during harvest would likely attract more complaints from neighbours.

Today’s story said the Borman Rd plantation was established nearly 10 years before urban northern housing sprawl reached its back boundary, and the 11 hectare property has since been changed to residential zoning from the previous “rural general” zoning:

Zealong manager Gigi Crawford said with a $2 million harvest at risk from late frosts next month, the company, whose main plantation is in Gordonton, had approached the council about using a helicopter again.

Last October Zealong attracted complaints when it called in a chopper before dawn on one occasion. Ms Crawford said Zealong had been told by a council staff member “it would depend”.

She said with a valuable harvest at stake, this advice was too “vague”, and the company had sold the property.

The council statement said after one formal noise complaint last year, staff had visited Ms Crawford to discuss the likelihood and timing of future helicopter use.

“Ms Crawford was advised by staff that if Zealong continued a practice of using helicopters for frost control, it was likely they would encounter more complaints.

“If complaints are made the council needs to investigate them. Staff also suggested there may be alternative options for frost protection but that investigation of these would be Zealong’s responsibility,” the statement said.

Ms Crawford had contacted the council in January this year seeking permission to use helicopters and was told it was not the role of the council to give permission.

That would be Zealong’s decision, the statement said. Zealong, which exports premium organic oolong and other teas to Asia and Europe, now plans to focus on developing its big Gordonton camellia plantation.
It would invest up to $5 million in a new visitor centre and leaf drying plant, Ms Crawford said.”

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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