New Zealand apple and pear growers in Hawke's Bay have no choice but to send their exports through Napier Port. There are simply not enough trucks or drivers available to export the apples via any other port, and even if there were, the cost of doing so is prohibitive.
That means Napier Port is of critical importance to the industry and for the Hawke's Bay region. Chief executive of NZ Apples and Pears, Alan Pollard, gave his views in an New Zealand Herald article.
"It is essential to have a fully functioning, well run and efficient port facility that has the capacity to handle the significant increased volumes of freight and cargo that are forecast by port users over the next few decades.
Therefore, the industry is very interested in the future development of the port to accommodate the expected growth.
The ownership of the Port of Napier and how any future development is funded is currently the topic of a formal consultation process by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
Hawke's Bay grows and exports about two-thirds of New Zealand's apple crop. With expected export receipts of almost $500m in 2018, the industry contributes somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2.5b in economic benefit to the region each year.
That includes not just the 2,400 permanent and 12,500 seasonal jobs in the industry in Hawke's Bay, but all the associated jobs and investment relating to logistics, rural supplies, consultants, professional advisers and the like. The New Zealand apple and pear industry has been ranked No 1 in the world for the last four years.
To meet an increasing demand, the industry is growing. Around 1 million trees are being planted nationally each year, some new and some replacement varieties.
And then back to the port. For the industry to be able to deliver on the growth aspirations and to deliver on increased job opportunities and economic activity in the region, and also to deliver high-quality product on time to a growing number of discerning customers worldwide, the port capacity must increase.
The port handled a record 5 million tonnes of cargo this financial year but cargo growth, ageing assets, larger ships and port congestion mean its ability to handle much more cargo is severely compromised. It is estimated the port will need to invest $320m to $350m over the next 10 years to build a new wharf, replace ageing assets and increase capacity."