The Port of Tauranga has recorded a net profit of $90 million which will bolster the region's economic recovery as it battles the effects of Covid-19, business leaders say.
New Zealand's largest port said net profit after tax was $10.6m down on the previous year while revenue also fell to $302m from $313m as log exports slumped by nearly 22 per cent and imports and exports were buffeted by the global pandemic.
But container volumes jumped by 1.5 per cent to 1,251,741 for the year ended June 30.
Chairman David Pilkington said the pandemic impacts included shipping cancellations, reduced cargo volumes, operational challenges and increased costs, with a resulting economic recession in New Zealand and overseas.
"We are better positioned than most, due to our track record of strong capital discipline, our conservative balance sheet and capacity headroom," he said.
"Our diversity of cargo gives us some resilience in terms of revenue, while the strength of our people and processes has really shone through in keeping New Zealand's most efficient port operating."
Chief executive Mark Cairns said the port was now planning for the next stage of cargo growth in response to customer demand. It would add another container vessel berth to the south of the Sulphur Point wharves. A ninth container crane had been introduced during the year.
Cairns said the short- and medium-term impacts of the pandemic were still uncertain.
"We expect cargo volumes to slowly recover over the next three years, with dairy product and kiwifruit exports likely to be the strongest performers in terms of growth."
The company would provide an update on first-quarter trade, and earnings guidance for the full year at its annual meeting on October 30.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Anne Pankhurst said the port had continued to work through Covid-19 and "this has been critical to the local economy through jobs for locals and revenue for growers".
"It has softened the blow of Covid to our local economy by helping the recovery of industry locally. Being open and operating at near capacity has meant that exports such as kiwifruit have continued without interruption."
The port was absolutely integral, "not only to our local economy but the country's".
"It impacts hugely and is largely why we are seeing exponential growth – not only in population, but the all-important growth of industry and business."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the port was the single largest contributor to GDP in the Bay of Plenty, with employment and business benefits stretching far wider than the port itself.
"The stability the port provides in difficult economic times is very important for the overall wellbeing of our region. The port is well-run, efficient, and has a favourable location – I'd only expect it to get stronger in the coming years."
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said port executives needed to be congratulated and it was a key business in one of New Zealand's fastest-growing cities.
It was imperative, he said, that "we continue to build relationships with central government to attract infrastructure funding ... on how we are going to manage freight volumes as they increase to and from the port".
Zespri chief global supply officer Alastair Hulbert said the port played a critical role in its supply chain, and "connects us with our markets around the world".
Zespri shipped around 80 per cent of all New Zealand-grown kiwifruit from Tauranga, Hulbert said, and he expected this trend to continue.
"We have loaded 41 of 49 charter vessels for the season, and over 15,500 containers of our Zespri Kiwifruit for our consumers in over 50 countries worldwide."
Zespri's top five markets were Greater China, Japan, Spain and Portugal, Germany and Korea.
Fonterra Global Supply Chain director Gordon Carlyle said all of its product made in the North Island left through the port.
"That's about 1.4 million metric tonnes every year. So the Port of Tauranga is very important to us and is a significant part of our supply chain."
The wide variety of products included milk powder, UHT milk, butter, cheese and cream that went to about 140 countries across the globe, he said.
Port of Tauranga operates wharves in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Timaru, as well as MetroPort Auckland, a rail-linked inland port in South Auckland and MetroPort Christchurch, an intermodal freight hub at Rolleston.
The group includes 100 per cent-owned Quality Marshalling, 50 per cent-owned Coda, a freight logistics company, 50 per cent-owned Northport, 50 per cent-owned PrimePort Timaru and the Timaru Container Terminal, and 50 per cent-owned Port Connect, an online cargo management system.
By the numbers
* Dairy exports increased 1.7 per cent to nearly 2.4 million tonnes and meat exports surged by 15.4 per cent
* Container volumes increased 1.5 per cent to total 1,251,741 for the year ended June 30
* Exports decreased 8 per cent to 15.8 million tonnes and imports fell 7.8 per cent to 9 million tonnes
* Overall log volumes fell 21.5 per cent to 5.5 million tonnes
* Kiwifruit exports held steady with a continuing trend to containerisation
* 15.3 per cent reduction in the port's overall carbon emissions and the company's land and buildings portfolio value swelling by $43.5 million
* The company will pay a final dividend of 6.4c a share but has suspended the special dividend scheme to reserve funds to accelerate capital expenditure for growth
* The port remains Australasia's most productive container terminal with the average net crane rate increasing 8.8 per cent to 35.8 moves per hour.