Marlborough Abalone Processors closes paua processing factory
A Marlborough paua processing factory that has been in business for more than two decades is closing its doors after the earthquake decimated the Kaikoura fishery.
Marlborough Abalone Processors co-owner Stephen Young said the company had made the decision to close its factory in the Riverlands Industrial Estate south of Blenheim.
"The fishery has been completely decimated in Kaikoura, half the paua have been wiped out - and we used to process most of that, now we don't have it," he said.
"It's a bloody sad thing, it's been going for a long time, we've lost a lot of jobs, it's a company that's just rolled over because of the earthquake."
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The closure of State Highway 1 also had an impact. Paua were shucked at the Marlborough factory before being sent to Christchurch to be processed and canned for export.
The increased travel time, through the alternative inland route, and then back to Christchurch, brought increased costs and made it untenable for the factory to keep operating, Young said.
"It closed because the earthquake happened, and it has changed the dynamics of transporting paua. But the real reason is we don't have enough paua now to process in the factory."
Young, a majority shareholder in the company, was not sure about the extent of job losses. Others in the company were approached for comment, but did not return calls.
PauaCo, which operated the canning factory in the Christchurch suburb of Bromley, would now run the shucking operations and take paua that would have gone to Marlborough.
General manager Jamie McKay said many people still made their living in the paua industry, but it was facing challenging times due to the earthquake and closure of part of the Kaikoura fishery.
PauaCo had taken shucked paua from Marlborough Abalone Processors since it started five years ago. Prior to that, a company PauaCo had acquired also canned meat sent from the Marlborough factory.
"We had a process in place and then the earthquake happened and Marlborough Abalone Processors went down the road and made a decision we had to react to," McKay said.
"The fish will come directly to our factory in Christchurch to be processed, one side will do the shucking and the other side will do the processing and canning."
The earthquake, which resulted in significant seabed uplift along the east coast, devastated the paua population, leading the Ministry of Primary Industries to close part of the Kaikoura fishery.
Commercial fishers in the PauaMAC 3 area, from the Clarence River to the Waitaki River, were affected by the closure, which stretched from Marfells Beach down to Conway River.
The annual allowable catch in the PauMAC 3 area was 93 tonnes, but fishers were voluntarily taking less - about 45 tonnes this year - in order to preserve the health of the fishery.
There was also fewer paua being caught in Marlborough, covered by the PauaMAC 7 fishery, where the annual allowable catch was reduced by 223 tonnes to 133 tonnes last year.
PauaMAC 7 chairman Barry Chandler said paua fishers who had been sending their catch to the factory would probably have to devise freight systems to send it to the PauaCo plant in Christchurch.
"It's a shame it's shut down because that processing plant has been going for so many years, but it is what it is, you can't turn back time," he said.
Marlborough Abalone Processors were in the process of looking to rent or sell their factory in the Riverlands Industrial Estate.
- The Marlborough Express