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PM Opens New Havelock Plant

Sanford plans to double production of prized greenshell mussels

Prime Minister Helen Clark this afternoon officially opened a new greenshell mussel processing factory at Havelock, Marlborough Sounds, signalling a major step forward in the fast-expanding development of marine aquaculture in New Zealand.

The multi-million-dollar plant has been built by Sanford Ltd to handle up to 16,000 tonnes of greenshell mussels each year, double the capacity of the previous Havelock facility.

Sanford is New Zealand's largest aquaculture company with more than 90 marine farming licences covering more than 400 hectares of water space in Northland, Coromandel, Stewart Island and in the Marlborough Sounds, where 69 of those marine farms are concentrated across more than 300 hectares of water.

Sanford Group Managing Director Eric Barratt thanked Helen Clark "for completing the treble for us, because this is the third new aquaculture facility that you have opened over the last two years for Sanford, all of which have created new jobs in the regional communities of Bluff in Southland, Kaeo in Northland, and now Havelock in Marlborough.

"I can tell you, Prime Minister, that the first two legs of the treble are winners," Mr Barratt said. Both plants were working to capacity in serving export customers, and he was confident that the same would apply to the third leg with the new Havelock facility.

Aquaculture was a growth area in Sanford's seafood business, whether in mussels, oysters or salmon. "Our farming activities, our volumes, our harvesting activities, our processing plants and our markets are growing," Mr Barratt said.

"Our involvement in hatcheries and farming, harvesting and processing, all certified to international environmental standards, ensures that we can deliver quality products to our customers throughout the world, whether it be mussels or mackerels, oysters or orange roughy, scampi or salmon, or terakihi or toothfish."

He said the new plant was the culmination of some 18 years of planning, dating back to when Sanford first investigated the fledgling mussel industry in the Marlborough Sounds.

One of the pioneers of that industry, Don Mitchell, later became Sanford's Havelock manager, and Eric Barratt paid tribute to the innovative efforts of Don and the Havelock team in continually improving processes and practices in the industry.

Borrowing a phrase from the Government's recent proposals for "growing an innovative New Zealand," Mr Barratt commented: "Many of the innovators and pioneers of this industry are here today; they are the people who developed long line mussel farming to a sophistication unparalleled in the world today. Most other mussel producing countries look to New Zealand for ideas about long line mussel farming.

"Much of the innovation in farming and harvesting has been typical New Zealand No.8 wire type developments, but people like Don Mitchell and many others in the audience here today have been at the forefront of constantly refining each other's ideas, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and economics of the mussel industry."

On the farming side of the industry, there had been improvements in seeding, growing and harvesting operations. In processing, there had been significant advances in areas like mechanical, steam and infra-red shell opening systems, high-tech weighing and grading machines, and more advanced packaging systems. "Much of this innovation has been generated within New Zealand and within the mussel industry."

On the marketing side, early mussel exports had been boosted by "piggy back" marketing with other seafood products, and Mr Barratt acknowledged the assistance and co-operation of the Fishing Industry Board and TradeNZ in this area.

Today New Zealand's greenshell mussels were highly prized in major export markets around the world, and sales were growing. In 1988 New Zealand exported 5,000 tonnes of mussels worth $15 million; in 2000, the volume was 75,000 tonnes worth $175 million.

Welcoming guests including overseas buyers, Sanford's Havelock manager Don Mitchell praised the project team who had spent 18 months constructing the new plant, while the company's 165 staff had maintained processing operations for all but a week or two.

As well as the onshore facility, a new mussel farming vessel was also officially commissioned today. Named the San Nikau, the vessel is 28 metres long, 8 metres wide and draws 1.45 metres. It carries a crew of three with on-board accommodation, and is powered by twin engines with auxiliaries and full gantries and winches to handle the normal range of marine farming and harvesting activities.


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