Hawke's Bay regional councillors have voted to sell a portion of Napier Port on the New Zealand stockmarket.

The decision allows council to sell up to 49 per cent of Napier Port. The initial offering will be between 33 per cent and 45 per cent.

Seven councillors voted for the sell-down of the port, and two voted against it.

Several councillors said investment should be put into the environment, rather than a commercial entity .

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Deputy chairman Rick Barker said while he personally did not believe in privatising the port, he felt it was the best decision for the region.

"This council needs to have cash in the bank to go and do what it has to do for our environment.

"As much as I would like to have the port 100 per cent ownership, I think my duty here, my decision making, is not about my personal preferences, it's about the best interests on this region."

Councillors Paul Bailey and Debbie Hewitt voted against the sell-down.

"I believe in this concept that the port is a strategic asset for this region so it needs to be retain 100 per cent ownership," Bailey said.

Hewitt said the regional council was not only a guardian of the environment but also of the port.

"I also don't believe we have been given mandate by the community selling up to 49 per cent."

HBRC's chief executive James Palmer and corporate services manager Jessica Ellerm during Napier Port discussions. Photo / Paul Taylor
HBRC's chief executive James Palmer and corporate services manager Jessica Ellerm during Napier Port discussions. Photo / Paul Taylor

Anna Lorck, who submitted to the council during the consultation process, said the outcome was predictable.

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She said the council could not ignore the clear message that Hawke's Bay residents wanted local ownership.

"Council must ensure that during this next stage of the process that it does everything and explores every opportunity for Hawke's Bay to retain and have local ownership of our port."

She hoped the idea of a Hawke's Bay consortium was looked at further.

Council chief executive James Palmer said the council would be looking at options to provide Hawke's Bay residents with the maximum opportunity for participation, as long as it did not undermine the success of the sell-down.

"The council just needs to ascertain how much demand there is from the local community to invest."

Council chairman Rex Graham said the council first needed to maximise the value of the port.

"We still are representing 55 per cent of the ratepayers in Hawke's Bay. This is their company, and maximising the value is really important to them."

Napier Port's chief executive, Todd Dawson, said he was delighted a decision had been made.

"The port's always had the position that we were just very keen for a decision to give us certainty around the future.

"Any of the options that the council considered today would have been a great outcome because it gave us a clear sense of direction."

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said it was the natural direction to go.

"As long they don't sell more than they have to. In other words, sell only that number of shares they need to, to build the new wharf, then I'm very happy for them to do it."

Yesterday's decision was made "in principle", meaning it will be progressed but remains subject to further advice.