The region’s long been well known for its fruit, wine, sunshine and relaxed lifestyle, albeit with a rather staid provincial outward appearance of being something of a retirement haven for jaded Aucklanders and Wellingtonians.

However, in recent times Napier and its environs have been shedding that image with the city becoming a thriving comm ercial hub as well as a tourist destination with much to offer.

In its September Regional Economic Scorecard report, the ASB rated Hawke’s Bay as the nation’s third-best-performing economy – jumping 10 spots in the rankings to just below Otago and Bay of Plenty.

ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny said that Hawke’s Bay, like other areas with a large horticulture sector, had been among the better-performing regions for the last few quarters. The ASB recently gave the region five stars for its economic prosperity and labelled the rate of growth as a boom.

Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Karla Lee said the desire by many New Zealanders to move to Hawke’s Bay, “matched with the confidence the housing market presents, good solid business, and, dare I say it, a favourable winter, [meant] Hawke’s Bay deserves the ASB status.”

Although rival bank Westpac wasn’t quite so upbeat in its economic assessment, it also acknowledged the region’s positive achievements and bright future.

Soaring away in a paraglider heading down towards the coast and the Craggy Range Winery

Westpac’s December 2018 regional roundup said of Hawke’s Bay that its “indicators suggest that activity levels in the (region) have strengthened significantly in the latest quarter. Activity is also much higher than the same period last year and well up on the five year average.”

At the core of this prosperity is tourism and farming; and within farming, while traditional pastoral industries like wool and meat are still important, the growth in horticulture, wine, and aquaculture is particularly impressive.

Te Mata Estate Winery chief executive Nick Buck noted that the outstanding quality of this year’s harvest had already resulted in “immediate” and “very strong” export benefits for the region’s wineries.

One sign of the growing produce and export success story is the volume of cargo sent out from the Port of Napier, which reported another record profit this year; the amount of cargo handled also hit a record. Net profit lifted 5.4 per cent to $17.6 million in the year ended September 30, 2018 on a 5.8 per cent increase in revenue to $91.7m, its annual report shows.

The port handled a record 5.1 million tonnes of cargo, with log exports lifting 35 per cent to a record 2.2 million tonnes. A total of 266,006 containers or twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) passed through the port’s container terminal, and the port’s onsite packing operation handled a record 51,126 TEU containers. Apple exports exceeded 23,000 TEU containers for the first time.

The regional council, which owns the port company, is preparing it for a partial sale with a public offering of up to 49 per cent of shares expected in 2019.

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