Just about everything that leaves Napier Port is something we grow here in Hawke’s Bay.

Yes, we do export some light manufacturing — Hamish Whyte’s school furniture (Furnware) and Rob Darroch’s food display cabinetry (FPG) come to mind — but mostly it’s product we’ve picked, slaughtered, processed or chopped down.

And none of that ‘grown’ stuff shows any sign of slowing down in the long-term, Covid-19 notwithstanding.

Our food and fibre merchants are a clever, market-sensitive breed.

Last month, the Port reported:

“Harvesting of apples, squash and other fresh produce has continued despite the additional operational challenges for our exporters. Similarly, the region’s food and meat processing industries have continued production and their products have been flowing right through this period of uncertainty, with Hawke’s Bay’s primary food-based exports seeing continued demand.

“Post the lifting of the Level 4 lockdown, exporters of forest products have quickly resumed and ramped up their production to meet pent up demand. Containerised trades such as the wood pulp and milled timber are up and running again and working to fulfil back orders and forecast demand. A partial revival of economic activity and some clearing of inventories in the key market of China has also seen improvement in log prices into April.”

So it’s good to see that work on the Port’s new 6 Wharf is back underway, after the hiatus during full lockdown. At that point, about $8 million had been spent on the project; work had begun on pilings and the existing rock wall. The new wharf promises less congestion with the ability to handle more and larger ships.

Now dredging has begun. And Napier Port general manager infrastructure services Michel de Vos says we’ll see the dredging vessel in the harbour for the next 18 months or so.

“Some dredge plume may be visible as Heron (dredging contractor) goes about their work. This is sediment from the seafloor and is a normal part of the dredging process.”

The Port says it is monitoring water quality in real-time to ensure the dredging doesn’t harm the marine environment, in particular fisheries and Pania Reef, which is a site of cultural significance and an important breeding ground for kai moana.

“We’ll be alerted immediately by our monitoring buoys at Pania Reef if turbidity (water quality) is above expected levels and will adapt our operations, or stop, until conditions mean it’s safe to resume,” says Mr de Vos.

The total cost of 6 Wharf is estimated at $170-190 million and, pre-Covid, the new wharf was scheduled to receive its first ship in late 2022.

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