Photo Florence Charvin
Photo: Florence Charvin

[As published in May/June BayBuzz magazine.]

Three years ago Napier Port launched its sustainability strategy. At the time, BayBuzz described the initiative as setting a high bar for all commercial and public institutions in the region. In this article we catch up on progress and some of the key initiatives. 

In addition to contributing to New Zealand’s climate change goals, prioritising sustainability is good for business, with studies showing that companies with solid sustainability practices have better financial performance, a lower cost of capital, and are perceived as less risky by investors and insurers. 

Forsyth Barr’s 2023 Carbon and ESG (environmental, social, governance) ratings of New Zealand listed companies, scored Napier Port’s sustainability performance at B+, describing the company as a fast follower, in the middle of the pack for the infrastructure industry. Of note, and dragging down its overall rating, was the lack of target to reduce water consumption and a poor score in the environmental management system sub-category. Plans are in place to address these issues. 

That said, impressive progress is being made. In its 2023 financial year the port reported that 61% of all 102 workstreams in the strategy were commenced or ongoing, up from the previous year’s 47%, “demonstrating our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and embracing sustainable practices”. 

David Broad, GM Assets and Infrastructure, says that next big ticket items in the sustainability strategy will be looking at things like emissions reduction pathways and new technology that the port can adopt. 

“That’s the E of ESG. We are focussing a lot on the S this year as well. Our employee recognition scheme this year is all about focusing on how our teams can turn their view outwards and start engaging with the community and bringing people in.” 

Involving everybody – the incentive scheme 

Getting port people on board with sustainability means they keep thinking and acting sustainably in their day-to-day work. Hannah Strauss, Environment and Sustainability Advisor, is tasked with spreading the sustainability message across the business. 

Last financial year, all teams were asked to identify initiatives that could be implemented and be ongoing. One hundred and twenty four initiatives were put forward, which were then evaluated and prioritised. Some are already producing results, such as using data driven planning to reduce equipment idle time, replacing HID lights with LED units to lower consumption and reduce risk, developing an aerosol puncture device to recycle used cans, partnering with Sustainable Coastlines and Litter Intelligence to participate in community litter reduction initiatives, and segregating domestic waste to reduce total volume to landfill. 

Strauss says she gets a steady stream of emails from people around the Port, with some new (sustainability) idea they’re excited to share. 

“And we do what we can to make those happen. It’s definitely gone beyond what staff need to do to get the bonus, which is really cool to see.” 

Broad adds: “The ideas come from the workgroups, and they can be anything. The crux of it is how can the port engage and help our communities to thrive?” 

Paul Rose, Environmental Advisor, says that once people are talking about it, then you’ve started to embed (sustainability) into your business. “I think everyone wants to make the environment better in the future, and try and do their little part.” 

Paul Rose and Hannah Strauss. Photo Florence Charvin
Paul Rose and Hannah Strauss Photo Florence Charvin

Driving down dirty diesel 

With a business that involves lifting and moving heavy things, it should come as no surprise that diesel emissions are a big deal, and reducing or eliminating them completely will go a long way to the port reaching zero net emissions by 2050. 

The Port’s emissions inventory is independently audited by Toitū Envirocare. The certification confirms that the port’s operational emissions are measured and managed in accordance with international standards. 

Currently 72% of the port’s carbon emissions come from diesel used by its container handling machines, marine fleet, and mobile harbour cranes. The move to more efficient machinery is underway, supported by sustainability objectives in the port’s procurement policy. 

Getting smart about how plant and equipment is used, can also make a noticeable difference, according to Hannah Strauss. The port’s three tugs – Ahuriri, Kaweka, and Te Mata – are not created equal. Ahuriri is more diesel thirsty than its sister vessels, and is now the last tug to be deployed – an initiative that came from port staff. 

“Prioritising Kaweka and Te Mata has saved almost 27,000 litres of diesel, and around 69 tonnes of carbon in the six months to February.

“It sounds like a simple enough switch, but there was a lot of work to be done with the tug teams. They had to be trained to use the different tugs. The Kaweka (the port’s newest tug) is quite different, it’s the more economical one, and they had to completely change the rosters and the planning around that as well. It’s been hugely successful,” she says.

Since coming into service Te Whiti (6 Wharf) has enabled carbon emission savings of approximately 150 tonnes, as it has reduced the number of ship moves, and therefore tug use.

New energy efficient plant has been bought, and will continue to be bought in the future, with timing dependent on things like cashflow and assets’ end of life. Twelve months ago four new Kalmar container handling machines were purchased, offering better fuel efficiency than the port’s existing stock. 

Expected for delivery early next year are seven electric forklifts, a $3 million purchase that Broad says will save 237 tonnes of carbon annually and make all of the equipment operating in warehousing operations electrified. Planned for the near future is the replacement of two of the port’s six mobile harbour cranes, a multi-million dollar investment. 


Partnerships is a key pillar underpinning the port’s overall strategy as well as its sustainability efforts. Where relevant the port works with groups including mana whenua, mana whenua hapū o Ahuriri, LegaSea Hawke’s Bay, the Fisheries Liaison Group, local experts, local councils, the Department of Conservation and university academics to develop and deliver programmes.

Arguably one of its most high profile programmes is the Kororā (Little Blue Penguin) sanctuary, the first of its kind on-port in New Zealand. 

The sanctuary was developed with the help of Kororā expert Professor John Cockrem from Massey University, and forms part of a wider Avian Management Plan prepared with mana whenua as kaitiaki of the area, the Department of Conservation, and HB Regional Council.

Today the penguin population is thriving, with around 280 microchipped birds based at the colony. Live cameras give a peek into the specially constructed boxes, which have proven more successful than the burrows made by the penguins, drawing viewers from as far away as Taiwan. The penguins also provide a fantastic learning opportunity for local school students.

Another ground breaking initiative is the marine cultural health programme, launched in 2021 and developed in partnership between mana whenua hapū and Napier Port to monitor the health of the marine environment in and around the Ahuriri/Napier area.

At the time of launch Steering Komiti Chair Chad Tareha (Ngāti Pārau Hapū representative) said: “Napier Port sought to engage all mana whenua entities in the Steering Komiti, and this has been valuable as it has provided for diverse and meaningful dialogue in the creation of the programme and its framework.

“We’ve designed our programme as a living document that will be updated annually and, hopefully, eventually become a benchmark for other mana whenua who seek to monitor their marine rohe (area),” says Tareha.

Artificial reefs

In what’s believed to be another first for a New Zealand port company, Napier Port created two artificial reefs in partnership with LegaSea, a group of recreational fishers dedicated to rebuilding local fish stocks.

In the ultimate of recycling projects, the Port reused limestone rock dismantled as part of its 6 Wharf project, with more than 16,000 tonnes of rock deployed; 15,000 tonnes to create the first reef 1.4 kms north east of Pania Reef, and a further 1,400 tonnes were deposited at the Gwen B shipwreck site. 

Brian Firman, from LegaSea, says the artificial reef system will provide habitats for a variety of marine life and will eventually enhance recreational fishing and diving opportunities around Napier. 

“The formation of the reef was a massive milestone for the group and a testament to hard work and a genuine collaborative approach.”

LegaSea notes (on its website) that after only three years, life is flourishing at the sites, with a range of species found including crayfish, blue cod, and a variety of sponges. 

In addition to the LegaSea Hawke’s Bay partnership, Napier Port also works closely with the Mana Whenua Steering Komiti – a group of local marae, hapū and mana whenua entities – and the wider Fisheries Liaison Group, which LegaSea forms part of.

Both groups were set up in partnership with Napier Port to protect water quality, Pania Reef, kai moana, fisheries, and other sites of cultural, environmental and recreational significance in Hawke Bay, during the 6 Wharf construction and dredging programme.

An environmental playbook

New this year, says Broad, is the building of an environmental management system. Once in place, the team would expect the port’s Carbon and ESG rating rise.

“It will consolidate all of the information in Paul’s head, in Hannah’s head and in various other parts of the business, to build an environmental playbook; this is how Napier Port does environmental management, but also how it intends to improve as well, to create a continuous improvement plan.”

The port is focused on what it can achieve locally to respond to global challenges like climate change, environmental issues, and prosperity to achieve a better and more sustainable future, not only for itself, but for the community. Let’s remember, this business is majority owned by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, with a further sizeable chunk of shares bought by Hawke’s Bay locals during the IPO. The port’s success be it financial or environmental, is our success too.

A third of the way into its ten year sustainability journey, sound progress is being made. Sustainability is a top priority, represented at board level, and fully embedded in the business. Port people are incentivised to act sustainably, and they’re doing more than the bare minimum to get a bonus. Napier Port is leading, doing the right thing with respect to sustainability … and indeed setting a high bar for our region’s other businesses. 


• Sustainability strategy and action plan launched 2018

• 102 initiatives, with 61% commenced or ongoing

• 3 x climate change reports published

• Emissions independently audited by Toitū Envirocare

• Updated climate risk assessment completed in 2023

• Rated B+ fast follower by Forsyth Barr C&ESG 

• Climate change risks mapped

Partners with mana whenua, mana whenua hapū o Ahuriri, the Steering Komiti, LegaSea, DOC, Fisheries Liaison Group, local councils

• Penguin sanctuary, artificial reefs, marine cultural health programme, fishing surveys

• Good neighbour programme

• Port Noise Management programme

• Sustainability committee at board level

• Sustainability component to employee incentive programme

• MOU with Hiringa Energy to investigate renewable energy initiatives involving green hydrogen

• Large number of primary sector business and ocean-focussed community sponsorships


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1 Comment

  1. Sounds great – setting the sustainability bar high for the region’s businesses.
    Any clean-up of the ocean water at the Port will benefit the tidal reach in to the Inner Harbour and Te Whanganui a Orotu/Ahuriri Estuary too.
    Maybe industries at Pandora and Onekawa will be inspired too? Would be great to have an Estuary Cultural Health Programme

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