Close to half of Napier Port could be sold if Hawke's Bay Regional Council has its way.

HBRC have announced their preferred option for ownership of the port, which could see up to 49% of shared sold to the public.

Councillor Rick Barker said Napier Port has reached its capacity, and needs the proposed wharf six, a project he said they would not be able to fund without increasing rates by potentially up to 50%.

Another councillor Fenton Wilson said given rates had gone up 30% across the past two years there was "no more blood in the stone" in the community to see extra rate rises.

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Councillor Neil Kirton said the preferred option would allow council to maintain majority shares in the port.

Barker wanted to reassure the public the councillors minds are completely open for the consultation process.

Under law, council is required to release their preferred decision when consulting the public.

The options for port ownership will now go to public consultation.

Councillors were unanimous in approving the consultation document, however, Debbie Hewitt and Paul Bailey voted against the preferred option.