The Maritime Union of New Zealand says Fonterra's move out of Auckland is bad news for its members in the country's biggest city but good news for its union workers at the Port of Napier.

The union's national president, Garry Parslow, was on the defence yesterday, claiming Fonterra's decision to export from the Port of Tauranga and Port of Napier, instead of Auckland, had nothing to do with industrial action but part of a plan devised in advance.

He said, however, Fonterra's cargo was likely to be handled by union members wherever it left the country.

"Fonterra used to put cargo out of New Plymouth but then decided to use rail to ship it through Auckland and then Tauranga," Mr Parslow said.

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"Now they've made the decision to move out of Auckland, Tauranga can't handle it all and so they'll send it down to Napier.

"That's good news for Hawke's Bay and for our members at the Port of Napier."

Mr Parslow said shipping companies didn't decide overnight to switch ports but, rather, they looked at the economics of where they could achieve the best deal.

"There's always a commercial reason, cheaper port and container rates.

"I don't think Fonterra woke up one morning and said let's go and take $27 million of export to Tauranga and Napier instead of through the Port of Auckland."

Union workers were looking for a lower pay rise of about 2.5 per cent, as opposed to the Port of Auckland's offer of a 10 per cent increase, in order to secure permanent long-term work, Mr Parslow said.

Port of Napier chief operating officer Chris Bain said Fonterra's move to Hawke's Bay would not automatically mean more jobs would be available at the port.

"If it becomes permanent change, and contributes to higher volumes in the longer term, then potentially yes, but at this stage I think we are within out capacity to handle the volume," Mr Bain said.

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It would be fair to say that the Port of Napier would be looking to make the switch from Auckland "permanent business".