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Log hub successful at home and away

Forestry Minister Shane Jones, left, C3 area manager Steve Chapple and C3 Waingawa site manager Craig Allen at the log marshalling station. PHOTO/FILE

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The Wairarapa growth story is evident in the latest profit statement by Wellington port operator Centreport, which is a bumper one.

Centreport reported an underlying net profit after tax of $11.9 million for the six months to December 31, 2018, which is $7.2m more than the corresponding period last year, and significantly in advance
of budget.

One of the drivers was 36 per cent year-on-year growth in log volumes and Wairarapa was a driver of that volume gain. The port has an inland hub at Waingawa on 2.8ha on Norfolk Rd.

“A major source of Centreport’s log volume growth is being driven out of Wairarapa,” says chief executive Derek Nind.

“Enabling this is the Waingawa log hub which provides regional log exporters with a sustainable, reliable, economic way of moving large volumes of logs to the port.”

In the past 12 months, 290,640 tonnes of logs were moved on the Centrerail service out of Waingawa to Centreport, he said.

Centreport has said it is expanding the Waingawa hub to increase the volume by another 100,000 tonnes per year.

“In total, the expanded hub capacity will replace 24,000 truck movements per annum.”

In its 2018 annual report Centreport also highlighted Wairarapa customer JR’s Orchards, which it said had relied on Centreport to connect it with international markets for the past 10 years.

JR’s Orchards plans to double its export volume by 2021, and will continue to grow with Centreport, the annual report says.

It is the largest exporter by volume in Wairarapa. It employs 26 fulltime staff, which grows to 140 during the harvest season.

The profit allowed Centreport to pay a $2m interim dividend to its council owners, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Council.

Operating revenue of $41.3m was 21 per cent up from the corresponding period in the previous financial year.

The 22 per cent increase in container volumes reflects the return to full service of the ship-to-shore cranes which were out of action for half the corresponding period in the 2017-18 financial year due to disruption caused by the Kaikoura earthquake.

In November Forestry Minister Shane Jones met key industry stakeholders at Waingawa hub and Forest Enterprises CEO Bert Hughes told Jones that there was room to grow log volumes by 50 per cent, but labour and rail infrastructure were two key factors holding the local industry back.

The Wairarapa train line exists for commuters, and the log wagons work around the commuter services, he said.

Forest Enterprises has about 140,000 tonnes of wood leaving the region each year, but that could be ramped up to about 210,000 tonnes immediately if there was more rail capacity.

Logs are trucked in from destinations up to 70km away from the yard, Hughes said.

Jones said the logging site at Waingawa was “very impressive”.

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