Consultation on Napier Port's ownership has thrown a spotlight on the port and its future but the port, and the people who work there, have been a vital part of the Hawke's Bay community for more than 150 years.

Day-in, day-out, around the clock, we support our growers, farmers and forestry exporters to get their product to the world and bring in goods for our region.

Those growers, farmers, forestry exporters and importers employ 27,000 people here in the Bay and they are driving the staggering growth of our region.

Read more: Council chair rejects 'shambles' claim over Napier Port consultation
Opinion: Napier Port our biggest economic enabler - but at what cost?
New wharf at Napier Port gets resource consent
Talking Point: Is Napier Port able to clear $300 million debt for capital injection


Napier Port has been the quiet achiever, getting on with the job. However, that steady growth has turned into steep cargo increases.

We are facing challenges – challenges we can't face on our own. We are telling our story so we can achieve our goal – a goal we share with you all – to build a thriving region by connecting it to the world.

As more ships come to move more cargo, as ships get larger, as our port gets more congested, we need to develop to make sure our region can continue to grow.

After three years of planning, working with the community and carrying out rigorous environmental studies, Napier Port has now been granted resource consent to build a sixth wharf.

It is key to our region's ability to export more logs, ship more fruit and vegetables, handle more imports and attract more cruise visitors.

While the need to build the wharf has had overwhelming support, some people are still concerned about the placement of dredged material 5km offshore.

Throughout the process we have worked with stakeholders on what's important to them and we are currently working with submitters on the details of the conditions set out in the consent.

These conditions, to continually monitor the impacts of construction and dredging, should reassure stakeholders that their interests will be protected.


We're also doing a health check on the region's wider supply chains.

Building on our 2012 Master Plan, we are working with customers, stakeholders and the wider community to ensure we have the right infrastructure in place to achieve their goals.

Can Hawke's Bay roads handle more trucks? Does it have room to store more containers? Can cargo be moved seamlessly across Hawke's Bay without impacting on the communities we live in?

We're looking at our Thames St depots and the future Whakatu hub, as well as how these assets integrate into other infrastructure such as road, rail and privately-owned assets, like cool stores and forestry hubs.

The Master Plan is a deep dive into the region's economy, trade forecasting, infrastructure options and seismic resilience of all our assets.

And we're road testing it with our community.

We already know that to serve the needs of our region, Napier Port needs to invest in infrastructure. At $142 million, 6 Wharf is the biggest investment but there is more work to do – growing our forklift fleet, building more facilities for refrigerated containers, purchasing a third tug and upgrading ageing infrastructure to handle increased wear and tear.

There's no doubt that the required $320m-$350m over the next 10 years is a huge amount for many to get their heads around. It's a big ask but it's critical investment for this region.

Much of that will be paid out of Napier Port's annual profits or user pays fees, which is how we pay for our development and maintenance currently.

Over recent years we've maximised our efficiency and developed where we can but we're at a tipping point – that's why we've asked our owner, Hawke's Bay Regional Council, to look at options for finding additional funding and investment.

The plan presented to our community would see our current debt paid so we can continue to invest and get over this financial hump.

Like any business, we need to be prudent with our debt levels – we've done the numbers, we know we can manage the required borrowing to meet investment needs through a growing and successful port.

We will all share the cost of a growing region but we can't burden this all onto our current customers with the entire cost of a development that will benefit port users and the region for many years into the future – we need to spread the cost over time and a loan will achieve that.

Council has been bold in tackling this issue now – another council may have let the next generation deal with what is a complex and difficult issue.

Napier Port is your port. Our people are your people. Our success is your success.

We need your support to face the future and to help Hawke's Bay achieve its potential. I call on you to help council make a decision on how we make that happen by making a submission before 4pm, Thursday.

* Todd Dawson is Napier Port's chief executive.