Salmon firm plans to boost its workforce

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:58 23/04/2014

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New Zealand King Salmon is in talks with Port Marlborough over building a primary processing factory in Picton, but there won't be job losses in Nelson, chief executive Grant Rosewarne said today.

Approval to set up three more salmon farms, granted by the Supreme Court last week, would eventually lead to a 70 per cent increase in production, Rosewarne said.

The company had hoped to have four farms approved, but even so, the primary production - heading and gutting of salmon - would probably shift, he said. This could mean an additional 30 to 40 jobs in and around the Picton factory.

NZ King Salmon was planning to expand its fish smoking capacity in Nelson at the same time, however, allowing workers to retrain for new Nelson jobs.

"We're planning to leave our head office in Nelson, our smoking facilities in Nelson, and even our value-added fresh, but the primary processing would move," Rosewarne said.

If the Picton factory plan went ahead, it was likely to open around 2020, he said, with the first production from the new farms happening around 2016.

The shift was driven by an improvement in export timing. Domestic distribution of NZ King Salmon's products is done by air from Nelson but the international market is serviced from Christchurch.

Currently, fish from its farms are unloaded at Picton and taken by truck to Nelson for processing, and then to Christchurch for export.

"Because of that eight hours we basically lose there, they miss that morning flight [from Christchurch], and we have to go out the following morning," Rosewarne said.

Falling production volumes had reduced exports to about 30 per cent of production, but the new farms should restore the mix to about 50-50, he said.

The company's expansion would add about 150 jobs across the top of the south, and under the existing production arrangements, two-thirds of these would be in Nelson.

If the new factory went ahead, when transport and other associated work was counted, about another 50 jobs could go to Marlborough.

The new Nelson jobs would have a higher skill level, and workers would be retrained, Rosewarne said.

"They've got five to six years."

He said the discussions with the port company were about building the factory at Westshore in Picton, "just past the ferry terminal".

"We would like to pump our fish straight into a primary processing facility without any land transportation."

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