Sanford proposes closing Tauranga fish processing plant, dozens of jobs on the line

The plant currently employs 77 people.
The plant currently employs 77 people. Photo credit: File / Getty

Sanford announced on Wednesday it may close its fish processing plant in Tauranga, which could result in the loss of 65 jobs.

The company said the main reasons for the proposed closure was a significant drop in processing volumes in the wake of COVID-19 and the fact the buildings at the plant do not meet new seismic strength requirements.

Even if processing volumes eventually return to pre-COVID levels the issues related to the seismic strength requirements means it is not viable to continue operations at the Tauranga site, said Clement Chia, Sanford's chief operating officer.

"We are very sorry to have to take this path," Chia said.

"Until very recently we had been planning a strong future for our Tauranga team.  We had installed a second processing line at the end of last year, but in 2020 our fish processing arrangements were not only hit by the impact of COVID-19 but we received the results of seismic engineering reports showing that the site was not viable in the long term.  We would have needed to rebuild or move out within the next few years.  The pandemic has unfortunately shortened that timeline."

The plant currently employs 77 people.

Volker Kuntzsch, Sanford's chief executive, said the intention was for some operations in Tauranga to continue. 

"We would continue to unload seafood at the Tauranga site under the proposed arrangements and we plan to retain a number of staff in that area," he said.

"We are entering a period of consultation with our team and we will not know the final configurations until that process is complete. Tauranga has been an important base of operations for Sanford and we have enjoyed being part of the community there.  

"It is very unfortunate that circumstances have pushed us down this path."

The company said it had completed seismic surveys for all of its eleven operation sites around the country following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

While most buildings will need some remedial work there was no intention to close any other plants, the company said.