Hawke's Bay business has had a good year. The Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme continues to stagger to the finish line and being the region with the least exposure to dairy became a good thing.

Local government amalgamation fell over but the region continued to grow.

The decades of pain endured by apple growers is ending as returns, quality and volumes increase.

Jetstar's first flight, below, receives a blessing on December 1.
Jetstar's first flight, below, receives a blessing on December 1.

In January Hawke's Bay scored a national first for regional economic growth, with the announcement of the one-stop-shop for business growth opening in Ahuriri. The Business Hub was announced, housing almost all of the region's business-development agencies with Business Hawke's Bay the lead agency.


Pan Pac's Japanese owner was given Government approval to expanded its footprint, acquiring Carter Holt Harvey's pulp, paper and packaging businesses, including the Kinleith pulp and paper mill and the Tasman pulp mill in the central North Island. Pan Pac purchased South Island sawmill and timber-drying facilities in Otago and bought 73ha of Tangoio farmland to convert into forestry.

German-owned Turners and Growers acquired Apollo Apples and US-owned Terroir Winery Fund increased its share of Trinity Hill winery.

New Zealand Miracle Water general manager Danny Lu with CEO Xinghong Ju at the opening of its Hastings bottling plant.
New Zealand Miracle Water general manager Danny Lu with CEO Xinghong Ju at the opening of its Hastings bottling plant.

Crasborn Group was acquired by Freshmax, making it New Zealand's third biggest apple exporter behind Mr Apple and ENZA. Australian-based Freshmax is one of the largest fresh-produce marketing and distribution operations in the pan-Pacific region.

The biggest move in the hospitality front for the year was the amalgamation of Hastings RSA and Heretaunga Club. This took place thanks to a $3.3 million purchase of the RSA's property from its supermarket neighbour. The combined clubs are building a major new facility on the Heretaunga Club site far from the Hastings CBD.

February showed a big lift in confidence with record levels of new car registrations, but alas no Mission concert.

Lower fuel prices were a boon for the economy but the downside was TAG Oil announced it would pull out of East Coast exploration unless a partner could be found, which didn't happen.

Plans by two companies to ship water from the Heretaunga aquifer overseas made headlines.

March brought increased wine exports but tougher drink driving laws were felt by licensed premises.


Kevin Hansen directed his last Horse of the Year, the best ever despite hundreds of horses housed at the racecourse as Cyclone Pam threatened to blow the show away.

Kevin Atkinson, chairman of both Unison Networks and Hawke's Bay District Health Board, found himself in a very interesting position when the back-up electricity system failed, forcing clinicians to use torches to treat patients.

Hastings City Growers' Market moved to the central Mall of the CBD after failing to gain traction as a street market.

The successful Festival of Hockey in April showed the region's event strategy was on track.

Delegat's new winery steadily rose this year and in May it announced the purchase of a 838ha dairy farm to be converted to vines. Also in May, Brownrigg Agriculture found itself in national headlines after the Government paid it millions to mitigate the losses of a long-time Saudi Arabian client, out of pocket following the banning of live sheep exports by ship.

Heinz Wattie's confirmed it would no longer use New Zealand asparagus for canning.

In June, Hawke's Bay Winegrowers launched new branding for the region's wine following the third "great" vintage in a row. Napier Port changes, at the cost of $40 million, proved fruitful with smooth handling of apple exports after a delays the previous season.

Winter F.A.W.C! was a success but the second Startup weekend was cancelled due to lack of participants.

In July Infometrics figures showed Hawke's Bay enjoyed the fasted economic growth since the Global Financial Crisis to March 2015.

Pipfruit New Zealand announced export receipts from apples grew 80 per cent since 2010 and were expected to double within five years, thanks to new plantings, markets and varieties.

Goodtime Pies scored a major export deal to Australia, the world meat-pie capital, and for the third month in a row Hawke's Bay topped national job advertisement growth.

In August the Health and Safety in Employment Act encouraged a shift in focus for businesses. Te Mata Mushroom Company accused Hawke's Bay Regional Council of keeping it in the dark over mounting prosecutions for smelly compost making.

Rural transport companies Farmers Transport and Bushetts Transport sold to a joint venture between a local family and billion-dollar South Island company HW Richardson Group.

In September Jetstar announced it would fly to Hawke's Bay, breaking Air New Zealand's monopoly. Air New Zealand responded with lower prices and greater capacity.

Food Hawke's Bay closed its doors due to a lack of funds and no shortage of help for food businesses seeking growth, thanks to other agencies. Growers were successful in a campaign to persuade the Government to maintain anti-dumping measures.

Hawke's Bay consumers recorded the highest confidence in the country.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods was raided by government agencies for suspected fishing quota irregularities.

In October Kevin Atkinson sold his payroll software company for $9.7 million. The country's biggest trade deal was signed, with government ministers saying Hawke's Bay would reap immediate and future benefits from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

For the second time in three years, a Hawke's Bay businessman won the country's highest entrepreneurial honour, with Progressive Meats' founder Craig Hickson winning the 2105 EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, as did Xero's Rod Drury in 2013.

The Hawke's Bay A&P Show gained royal status and the first of two major water bottling plants opened.

In November, major players continued to endorse the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, including the mayors and chairs of Hawke's Bay's five councils, the Cushing family through Rural Equities, Craig Hickson and former Silver Fern Farms director Angus Mabin.

In December Jetstar flights commenced and Napier domain name company Instra Corporation was sold to London Stock Exchange-listed CentralNic for $35 million.

The continuing rally in Auckland's property market spilled over to the local market, with volumes back to former Global Financial Crisis levels and prices edging to historic highs. Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Wayne Walford said Aucklanders were moving to Hawke's Bay, easing a skills shortage. "We're on the attractive list," he said.