Gisborne going bananas over new taxpayer-funded horticulture venture - 'Grow like topsy'

Poke around Gisborne backyards and you’ll see bunch after bunch of bananas growing like weeds.

Local enthusiast Trevor Mills says if you go out to Wainui Beach, "every second house has a banana plant growing in their backyard".

"With the climate change we've had in the last few years, middle of July, 2am in the morning and it's 16 degrees, well, bananas love that sort of treatment," Mr Mills said.

Gisborne locals have been growing bananas for decades, but now local company Tai Pukenga wants to see the business grow beyond the region.

Bananas are already grown successfully in Northland but they don't make it out of the region due to their popularity on the local market.

The plan in Gisborne would be to grow enough to be commercially viable and sell them nationwide.

Nearly $100,000 of taxpayers' funding has been granted by the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation to Tai Pukenga and AgResearch to make it happen.

AgResearch scientist Dr Jane Mullaney says they’ll need to grow a lot more trees for it to be a success.

Dr Mullaney and her team have been touring the region, picking the brains of locals and collecting samples for testing.

"From there, [you] make a tissue culture that is basically amplifying these plants and give them the opportunity to grow much more and a lot faster."

Mr Mills says the plants, once in the ground, "grow like topsy".

"If you plant 50 plants, you will get 150 to 200 plants from that initial 50," he said.

Statistics NZ data shows New Zealand imports more than 87 million kilos of bananas annually, with the average Kiwi household spending $88 dollars on the fruit per year - over $20 more than its closest competitor, apples, at $61 a year.

Dr Mullaney says with modern day standards and greater awareness of where food comes from, there should be a market for bananas from Gisborne.

"It's not enough to go to a supermarket and say 'there is an apple, there is a banana', so I think we are learning to tell that story about where that food has come from and it is just as important as the food that we are eating," Dr Mullaney said.

If Tai Pukenga's plan comes to fruition, bananas from Gisborne could hit supermarket shelves in two years' time.

All going to plan, bananas from the region could hit shelves in two years’ time. Source: 1 NEWS

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Fletcher Building scraps Steel & Tube takeover

Fletcher Building has scrapped the proposed takeover of Steel & Tube Holdings after its enhanced offer was rejected.

The rejection sent the target's shares plummeting to their steepest fall in two months from a four-month high.

The $315.4 million offer, at $1.90 per ordinary share in cash plus a special dividend up to five NZ cents per ordinary share upon deal completion, was about 11.8 per cent higher than the previous bid.

New Zealand’s largest construction company launched its bid earlier this month, but Steel & Tube said the initial offer had undervalued the company.

A "lack of support from Steel & Tube's board to progress the proposal in a timely manner" was blamed by Fletcher for their withdrawal.

Steel &Tube said its advisers' view was of an intrinsic share value between $1.95 and $2.36.

Fletcher Building sign and logo
Source: Te Karere


Lime e-scooter test ride: Do they live up to the hype?

The latest wave of GPS-tracked travel options has hit New Zealand in the form of Lime scooters, and they're a lot of fun, but they're also not without their pitfalls.

There are easy instructions available on how to sign up - they just take your details from Facebook and you then add a credit card - they've even built Apple Pay into their app.

I found a free scooter after a two-minute walk and decided to take it for a quick ride around central Auckland's Victoria Park to see what they can do.

But before we get into the ride, lets just talk about the cost.

Importantly, the app tried to put me on a recurring charge scheme when I signed up and I had to opt out. Bad form, Lime - it should always be opt-in - that's really sketchy behaviour.

I rode a Lime scooter for 38 minutes, travelled 3km, and the total price was $11.40, with a $1 discount applied for some reason. Much, much more than I was expecting.

These scooters are definitely not as cheap as you might imagine - Uberestimate.com lists the price for a 3km UberX ride at $8-11, so just bear that in mind.

OK, so how do they handle?

If you have never ridden a scooter, skateboard, or even a bike before, you'll want to be really cautious the first time you set off.

These things are fairly big, the non-adjustable handle bars are quite tall, and they are a lot heavier than they look.

They feel bottom heavy with the handle bars so high off ground, and it takes a while to get a feel for them, so don't go straight on to a busy footpath like I did.

These scooters have relatively small wheels compared to a bike, and you really feel any bumps in the road - there's no suspension on these bad boys.

They are deceptively quick to accelerate downhill or even on flat land, so be careful. The throttle button has no middle ground - it's either off, or on full-blast.

You are allowed to ride these things on the footpath legally without a helmet, but whether you actually should is a different matter.

I definitely got a few scornful looks from pedestrians as I zoomed down Victoria Street, and the bell attached to the Lime-S is too quiet for purpose. 

Honestly, I felt really out of place riding on the sidewalk, borderline irresponsible, and I definitely felt like if I was a pedestrian, I would consider yelling "get off the footpath!" at someone like me.

On the flat, on a nice smooth piece of concrete, my speed topped out at 27.6km/h, and I weigh about 90kg. The handling at top speed is ... precarious at best.

Uphill, it really struggled. I went up Victoria Street West heading east, a pretty average slope by Auckland standards, and I actually needed to push the scooter a bit like a skateboard to help it along.

It has a small LED light mounted on the front, but I definitely wouldn't count on that to give you any type of actual lighting - it's more of a warning for people in front of you.

The rear (and only) brake seems to work as advertised and I never felt like it was going to let me down.

In the interests of journalism, I verified that you can, in fact,  do a pretty decent skid on these scooters, because the brakes will lock up if you pull them hard enough.

These scooters are definitely not safely ride-able with one hand, so if you're thinking about taking one to grab a coffee on your lunch break, best of luck to you.

All in all, I think they're good for a bit of fun, and come with a certain "look at me" novelty factor, but considering they cost similar to a taxi, are a menace to pedestrians, are legitimately dangerous if you fall off, and will struggle on hills, I'm not overly impressed.

Five out of ten.

The scooters are being launched in Auckland and Christchurch, and can be found using a smartphone app. Source: 1 NEWS