First Fresh News

‘Statesman of the industry’

Gisborne’s Bill Thorpe and wife Margaret with the Bledisloe Cup, the top accolade presented at the Horticulture New Zealand annual conference in Hamilton last night. Mr Thorpe received the trophy in recognition of 40 years of “meritorious” service to the industry. The award citation described him as “commercially mature and unfailingly courteous” and “an absolute gentleman and statesman of the industry”. Mr Thorpe said it was a “real honour” to be recognised in this way and made special mention of the support he received from Margaret. Picture by Trefor Ward/Hort NZ

Gisborne horticulture leader Bill Thorpe last night received Horticulture New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup — the highest award presented for horticulture in the country.

The award was presented to Mr Thorpe at the Horticulture NZ annual conference in Hamilton before a crowd of 400.

The cup is presented in recognition of an outstanding and meritorious contribution to the industry.

It was won by Leader Brand founder Murray McPhail in 2016.

Mr Thorpe’s citation reads: “This year’s recipient has been associated with the horticulture industry for 50 years and was highly instrumental in the push into new markets like China and the United States.

“He is described as ‘commercially mature and unfailingly courteous’ and ‘an absolute gentleman and statesman of the industry’, and ‘relentless’ in representing the growers of Gisborne.

“What’s more, he has provided employment for hundreds of people.”

Mr Thorpe said this morning that it felt great to receive the award.

“It is certainly a nice recognition of my 40 years contribution to the horticulture industry.”

He told the conference in receiving the award that it had been particularly satisfying to have spent most of his working life involved in such a dynamic and forward-looking industry.

“To receive this award tonight is a real honour. In the twilight of my career I am particularly honoured to join the impressive list of people who have their names engraved on this magnificent trophy.”

Mr Thorpe is director of New Zealand Fruits, based in Gisborne, and has previously been Gisborne’s representative for kiwifruit growers at an industry level.

He served in that role for 25 years and only recently stood down.

He is also a founding member of the New Zealand Persimmon Council and is still involved in that area.

Mr Thorpe started as a grower in 1979, and over the years he has developed a number of large orchards in the Gisborne district, growing kiwifruit, persimmons and citrus.

He commissioned NZ Fruits in 1984 and established the fruit marketing company First Fresh in 1989.

“These are exciting times for the horticulture industry in Tairawhiti, because of the growth in both the apple and kiwiifruit industries.

“There is significant growth going on and that’s great for the region when it comes to employment and its GDP.”

Mr Thorpe and his wife Margaret have been in Hamilton for the past couple of days.

“We are both stoked with the presentation of this award.

“What I have done would not have happened without Margie’s continual support, through the good times and the challenging times.”

The Bledisloe Cup for horticulture was first presented in 1931 by the then Governor General Lord Bledisloe, for a competition between orchardists for the best exhibit of New Zealand apples at the Imperial Fruit Show.

It is one of several cups Lord Bledisloe presented to New Zealand, and is similar to rugby’s Bledisloe Cup which was also donated in 1931.

Lord Bledisloe had an affinity with agriculture throughout his career and in his private life as a vegetable grower and orchardist.

The cup is sterling silver and was made in London in 1928.

In the late 1970s the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation (NZFF) decided to award the cup for outstanding contributions to the industry.

In 2006, the NZFF passed the cup on to Horticulture New Zealand to be presented to fruit and vegetable growers on an annual basis.

Source:  The Gisborne Herald