A protesting Napier Port employee says the impending sale of it is causing anxiety for workers and their families.

The worker, who did not want to be named, said workers were concerned about job security and also what a sell down would mean for their conditions, saying currently Napier Port was considered the safest in New Zealand.

He said privatisation had never worked in New Zealand.

The comments were made during a protest on Wednesday, when RMT union members from Napier Port, along with other concerned citizens, gathered outside the regional council buildings before a meeting to protest the sale.


People driving past tooted their horns in support of the 40 or so people gathered outside the council buildings, chanting "Napier Port, not for sale."

Following the protest, Council chairman Rex Graham appeared on the councils forecourt to invite the workers to the meeting, and allow a representative, David Marden , RMT branch secretary for Napier Port, to address councillors.

After a fiery back and forth between Graham, former port worker and union representative Samuel Williams and Hawke's Bay resident Gren Christie, who described himself as a part owner of the port, the workers headed into the council chambers to hear Marden's presentation.

Napier Port employees protesting the sale outside Hawke's Bay Regional Council. Photo / Duncan Brown
Napier Port employees protesting the sale outside Hawke's Bay Regional Council. Photo / Duncan Brown

Marden said privatisation always hit workers first.

"The first target is conditions, pay and jobs, and you all know that.

"That's our core cry, our mantra, whatever you want to call it."

He said during the submission process the conversation had been about keeping the port "in-house", but recently it had come out a dual listing in New Zealand and Australia was being considered.

"We talked about iwi, we talked about Hawke's Bay people first, but now we are already in Australia."

At the end of his presentation he lead the chant again. "Napier Port, not for sale".

Council chairman Rex Graham told Hawke's Bay Today said it was good the protesters turned up and shared their views.

"This about their jobs and their family, it's really important to them."

However, he said the protest had not changed his mind about the sale.

"In the final analysis, it's the right thing for our community to do."

He said he could not guarantee the same conditions, wages, or jobs for workers, and that came down to the board of directors, not the regional council.

"Having said that, this council is very proud of the health and safety record, which is the best in New Zealand, very proud of the fact the our management have a really good relationship with the staff and the union.

"We would hate to see that change."

Council agreed to a three week consultation on the Council Controlled Organisation, starting on February 15 and ending March 11.