Gisborne horticulture leader honoured for 'outstanding contribution'

Bill Thorpe and wife Margaret with the Bledisloe Cup.
Bill Thorpe and wife Margaret with the Bledisloe Cup. Photo credit: Supplied

Gisborne horticulture leader, Bill Thorpe has been recognised for his 50-year career in the sector with a top industry award.

The Bledisloe Cup celebrates a person who has made an outstanding contribution to horticulture in New Zealand.

It 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.

Bill Thorpe has been associated with horticulture for 50 years and was involved in some of the country's first commercial kiwifruit plantings in 1969. 

By 1975, he had developed Gisborne's first, seamless kiwifruit packhouse and export facility and is well known for his contribution to the persimmon industry over the past 40 years. 

In 1988, he became a founding member of the New Zealand Persimmon Industry Council, of which he remains an active member. 

In 1997, Thorpe started exporting persimmons and was highly instrumental in the push into markets like China and the United States.

In receiving his award, Thorpe said 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," he said.