Shelter under the new netting which saved hail damage on Sunday.

M A Orchards administrator Di Jamison and spray contractor Tony Crampton shelter under the netting which saved the Divan Rd block from hail damage on Sunday.

Hail which destroyed an export apple crop in 2014 was no match for a South Canterbury orchard’s netting this year.

Hail pounded Pleasant Point, Timaru and other parts of South Canterbury on Sunday but left M A Orchards’ Divan Rd orchard block untouched.

A block of the company’s Honeycrisp apples on Kerrytown Rd received extensive damage in a hail storm in November 2014 while it was installing protective hail netting.

Hail Storm

Hail coats a Timaru lawn on Sunday.

Orchard manager Red Martin said this year, the netting managed to repel several bands of hail which fell on its trees, saving the company “significant damage” to an export crop destined for the United States.

Speaking after a meeting with an insurance company representative, Martin said the netting had proved its worth.

Waipopo Orchards owner Peter Bennett said the hail had not touched his apples 7.5 km northeast of M A Orchards. However, the trees received a “welcome” six millimetres of rain.

Martin said dry weather could present some challenges for local orchardists this summer. Opuha Water Limited had restricted users to 75 per cent of their irrigation allocation, he said.

The dam company has warned irrigators to plan for a 50 per cent restriction beginning about December 23. It reported storage levels of 71.4 per cent on December 11, compared to 44.1 per cent at the same time last year.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research soil moisture anomaly charts suggest soil in South Canterbury is significantly drier than usual.

Martin said the orchard was employing 68 workers and would be recruiting pickers soon. Although the company had relied on labour hire companies for 80 per cent of its seasonal workforce, Martin said a new website and word of mouth from workers meant most of its staff so far had applied for their jobs directly.

Nonetheless, he anticipated externally recruited workers would be needed later in the season.