Councils, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc and Treaty post-settlement groups could partner in a majority ownership of Napier Port to keep the company in local control if a decision is made to sell.

Hawke's Bay Today understands there have been no formal discussions on such a possibility.

However, iwi chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana says it is strategically important for the company to remain in local hands and if the Hawke's Bay Regional Council decides to sell any of its interest there will be a local will to take up a collective local majority shareholding.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton, a sharebroker by profession, says there are a "helluva lot of people in Hawke's Bay looking forward to becoming investors in our port", and it includes councils as possible big players at a time when international investor interest could be limited.


"The biggest thing is what is happening to the share market internationally," he said.

"The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's timing is not brilliant, but they couldn't have predicted what is happening in the market.

"Ngahiwi is right, and I'm sure some groups, including other councils, may look at it," he said.

"Everyone is wanting to see that the Port stays in local hands."

The possibilities — including the dead-and-buried option of "no sale" — could start to emerge as early as late-morning tomorrow as the regional council considers the outcome of its public consultation over preferred options, linked to the need to finance a new wharf in anticipation of continued record growth.

The growth is highlighted in annual results released by Napier Port today, showing that in the year to the end of September cargo-handling hit a record 5.1 million tonnes, log exports increased 35 per cent to 2.2 million tonnes, and several other highpoints were reached, including a record 103,000 cruise-ship passengers.

It led to a $17.6 million nett profit after tax and $10m in dividends to regional council holding the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Co.

Dalton said there have been informal "over the teacups" discussions among councillors about the possibilities, with some extra potential in Napier where the council now has the ability to sell some of its leasehold lands portfolio, so long as it has alternative investment options.


Hastings District Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says her council's core business is to support economic growth for industry.

"Through our Long Term Plan, we have a major infrastructure programme to support business and industry growth. For us to consider purchasing shares in the Port, we would need to talk to our community first."

Tomoana sees all of the iwi area, covering Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa, as having an interest in the Port, and an interest in ensuring its viability and that it stays in local hands.

"It is very important to us, both historically and strategically."