Heat attracts record-breaking numbers of berry pickers

The drought this summer has affected thousands of New Zealanders - but not everyone's complaining.

Blueberry orchards are reaping the benefits of the high temperatures, with record-breaking numbers of people turning up to pick their own berries.

Business is booming for Blueberry Country, an orchard nestled away just outside Ngatea on the Hauraki plains. It's a new year tradition for Auckland families who drive more than an hour to gather berries here by the bucketload.

One woman told Newshub she planned to bring her father to the orchard when he arrived from China. 

Warrick McDonald, general manager for Blueberry Country, says berry picking brings families together. 

"People really love to come out into the country and actually get the experience of picking their own fruit. The whole family comes out - grandma, grandad, the kids, everybody." 

The orchard has been operating since 1980, and now covers 400 hectares with over 270,000 blueberry trees.

When hordes of Aucklanders turn up every new year, it puts extra strain on the operation, says orchard manager Colin Quinn.

"The main control during the season is the health and safety of our many customers. As you can imagine, it's not unusual to have an excess of 1000 people on the orchard at any one time."

Just yesterday, despite the numerous "no smoking" signs, staff had to extinguish three fires started by cigarettes tossed by visitors. While the heat may make the foliage tinder dry, it also makes the berries extra sweet. 


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