A multi-million-dollar expansion will boost a Kerikeri kiwifruit packing facility's capacity from 1.4 million trays last season to as many as four million trays a year.

Te Puke-based Seeka bought T&G Global's (formerly Turners and Growers) Waipapa Rd packing operation in April 2018.

Since then the company has spent more than $18 million modernising the outdated facility by building a vast new packing shed and installing grading and sizing equipment.

It was officially opened on Tuesday, less than a year later.

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The plant can also handle avocados, citrus and berry fruit, which means it won't be sitting idle outside kiwifruit season.

It is expected to process two million trays this season — equating about 68 million pieces of fruit weighing more than 7000 tonnes — but has a capacity of four million trays.

The upgrade meant Seeka could begin recruiting new growers around the Bay of Islands.

Staff at work at the kiwifruit grading tables in Seeka's new $18m Kerikeri packing facility. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Staff at work at the kiwifruit grading tables in Seeka's new $18m Kerikeri packing facility. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Seeka chairman Fred Hutchings said once more machines had been installed and a new coolstore had been built by the end of the year, the company would have spent $19m at the Kerikeri site.

''That's a lot of money but the growth is here in this region, that's why we're prepared to do it.''

The world-class facility would help meet international and domestic demand for high-quality fruit and tied in with the company's strategy of investing in the regions, "the heartland of New Zealand".

Hutchings paid tribute to the staff and contractors who had completed a large project in a remarkable timeframe.

Those attending the opening included Far North Mayor John Carter, representatives of local hapū Ngāti Rehia and Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust, which owns five kiwifruit orchards in the Kerikeri area.

Carter said the new packhouse was another sign of Northland's economic revolution.

''Opportunities that haven't been here for the past 20 or 30 years are suddenly upon us,'' he said.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks was to have been at the opening but had a family bereavement.

The expansion will provide an extra 7800sq m of operational space, including new curing and loadout canopies.

Demolition of part of the old facility and construction of the new coolstore will start once the kiwifruit season ends.

Pita Tipene from Ngati Hine Forestry Trust said: "Ngati Hine Forestry Trust celebrates this new facility, it looks fantastic. It's great to see the support Seeka has shown to the community they are part of and their contribution to the local economy through investment and employment."

Seeka said its investment over two years in Northland is in line with the company's heartland growth strategy and the expectation that volumes of kiwifruit and avocados will increase in the area.