The region known as Central Otago in the south of the South Island of New Zealand is a mountainous region intersected
by river valleys that were carved out by ancient glaciers. The climate is a semi Mediterranean climate with hot dry
summers and very cold winters. Summer temperatures range up to 38 C and winter temperatures can range down to -
18 C. Annual average rainfall is 390 mm.
Cairnmuir Olives' grove is nestled between the foothills of the
Cairnmuir Mountains and the Kawarau Arm of Lake Dunstan in the
It is divided into two parts by a deep gully running down off the
Cairnmuir Mountains and draining into Lake Dunstan. The gully
apparently provided a good return to gold miners in the 19th
century. The gully eroded by water over centuries is now clothed in
wild thyme that escaped from the early settlers' gardens. Our
intention is to maintain the gully in its present state.
Both parts of the grove have a favourable aspect, lying to the north,
which ensures maximum sunshine to develop and ripen the fruit
while the open site, the gentle slope and the proximity to the lake
reduces the risk of frosts that might damage the ripening fruit. A
downside to the open site is that the prevailing northerly and
easterly winds have sculpted the trees into some interesting shapes.
The grove, established in 1999 is planted in three of the varieties that have made Tuscan olive oil famous, namely
Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino. The trees were planted on a spacing of 6 metres between rows and 5 metres between
trees. Irrigation is provided from an on-site well via a single micro jet sprinklers per tree.
In New Zealand the most serious olive pest is peacock spot, a fungus that in some regions has totally de-foliated trees.
In Central Otago with its very cold winters, pests and diseases cannot over-winter, which eliminates the need for fungal
and insecticide sprays.
The cold winters and the changeable weather in spring slow the warming of the soil in the spring. As a result new
growth and flowering are delayed leading to late flowering compared with the rest of New Zealand. Flowering typically
occurs between the first week in December and the first week in January. This leads to a short season for fruit
development and ripening. With the risk of frost damage to the fruit, the olives are harvested relatively unripe.
Depending on the timing of flowering the olive harvest may take place any time from mid May through early July.