Bay of Plenty-based Surtees Boats is undergoing a major expansion of its production facility with the addition of a 900sq m building to meet continuing strong demand.

The new facility will expand production capability by about 20 per cent and will also see the company bolster its staff numbers. Surtees Boats employs 57 people, and a further five staff will be needed once the build is completed, which is expected to be next month.

Surtees Boats chief executive Adam Dyck said the expansion was a strategic move to further streamline the company's manufacturing process and to decrease the lead-time for customer orders.

Surtees Boats, which is located about halfway between Rotorua and Whakatane, produced more than 400 boats in 2015, and expects a 20 per cent increase in the coming year. The company produces 17 models, ranging in size from 4.95-metres to 8.5m.


The lucrative Australian market is a key driver behind the company's need to expand.
"Australia is a huge market for us," said Mr Dyck.

"Currently it's around 50 per cent of what we produce and we have eight dealers there."

Surtees Boats developed its hull technology in the rough waters off the Whakatane coast, he said. "A lot of the boating that Australians do is in open water and that's where we find our boats have massive appeal."

But Mr Dyck noted the brand was enjoying strong sales across all of the markets in which it operated.

"This ability to increase our production will allow us to expand into new sales markets and to meet the demand we expect to experience once those markets are established."

The company was started during the early 1990s when Neil Surtees decided to design and build himself an aluminum boat to use for fishing off the Whakatane coast.

By 2005, he had decided to sell but ultimately retained a stake when Toni Palmer, Phil Sheaff, his brother, Dave Sheaff, and Don Howard, came in as shareholders.

All of the owners are based in Tauranga or Whakatane and are closely involved with the company.

Ms Palmer, who chairs the company, said Surtees Boats had a backlog of about 200 pre-sold boat orders a year.

"Our rural location made it difficult to firm up the expansion plans, but the build is now completed and we'll be moving into it next month," she said.

"Then we can look at finding the right extra staff to keep production levels up. The new production capabilities will allow us to expand to export markets beyond Australia."