The first stage of one of the Bay of Islands' biggest ever business investments is nearing completion on the outskirts of Kerikeri.

Te Puke-based kiwifruit firm Seeka is spending $18 million upgrading the former Turners and Growers packhouse on Waipapa Rd.

Seeka investments manager Graham Cater said the Kerikeri packhouse was well behind the company's other facilities so it was undergoing a major upgrade to ensure it was state-of-the-art and could deliver best outcomes for growers.

Stage one, which is due to be completed just before the kiwifruit season starts in early March, will involve an extra 7800sq m of operational space made up of a new packhouse, bin curing canopy, and loadout canopy.


That would increase packing capacity from 1.6 million trays to 4 million trays a season, Cater said.

Stage 2, which would start after the kiwifruit season had finished, would involve demolishing the old packhouse and adding new coolstores to accommodate the site's increased packing capacity.

The technical upgrade would include a state-of-the-art Compac Sizer to grade and size the fruit as well as NIR (near infrared) technology to increase grower packouts.

The project was a major endeavour inside tight time frames, Cater said.

Seeka bought about 80ha of kiwifruit orchards in and around Kerikeri, plus post-harvest facilities for packing and storing avocados, kiwifruit and citrus, from T&G Global (formerly Turners and Growers) for about $40m in April last year. The deal included $2m in Zespri shares.

Seeka, which prefers to focus on packing and marketing rather than growing, has since on-sold some of the orchards, including to the diversifying Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust.