New Zealand seafood company Sanford Ltd is proposing to close its Tauranga fish processing plant which could result in 65 job losses.

The company announced today it is working with affected staff to try to minimise the number that are impacted.

At present it employs 77 people at the Bay of Plenty site.

Sanford said in a statement the proposed decision was based on a number of factors but two were key, firstly the impact of Covid-19 had meant Sanford was processing less fish caught by other companies, which had seen processing volumes for its North Island sites drop significantly, and secondly the buildings at the plant did not meet new seismic strength requirements.

Advertisement

Chief operating officer Clement Chia said even if processing volumes eventually returned to pre-Covid levels, the seismic issues with the buildings and surrounding area meant it was not viable to continue at the Tauranga site.

"We are very sorry to have to take this path," he said.

"Until very recently we had been planning a strong future for our Tauranga team. We had installed a second processing line at the end of last year, but in 2020 our fish processing arrangements were not only hit by the impact of Covid-19 but we received the results of seismic engineering reports showing that the site was not viable in the long term.

"We would have needed to rebuild or move out within the next few years. The pandemic has unfortunately shortened that timeline."

Sanford chief executive Volker Kuntzsch said the intention was for some operations in Tauranga to continue.

"We would continue to unload seafood at the Tauranga site under the proposed arrangements and we plan to retain a number of staff in that area. We are entering a period of consultation with our team and we will not know the final configurations until that process is complete.

"Tauranga has been an important base of operations for Sanford and we have enjoyed being part of the community there. It is very unfortunate that circumstances have pushed us down this path."

Sanford has operations at 11 sites around New Zealand and has completed seismic surveys for all of them, following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

Advertisement

Most of its buildings will require some remedial work, but the company has no intention of closing any of its other New Zealand processing bases.

Kuntzsch said its Auckland processing site would require some short-term work, but it has already been brought up to the necessary earthquake standards. Sanford's long-term plan is to eventually replace its factory there with a brand-new facility to add further capability to widen the range of its seafood offerings.