Made in the Bay

The region’s innovative manufacturers are extending their range.

The Bay of Plenty’s reputation as a haven for innovative manufacturing was clearly evident during a recent day on Tauranga Harbour when Pacific Seven founder Sean Kelly successfully launched New Zealand’s first purpose-designed and built, fully electric boat.

With a ballast load of Tesla car batteries, and a 147 hp electric engine, the six metre prototype can produce a – very quiet – top speed of 25 knots.

Kelly aims to manufacture the boat from his base at Tauranga’s new Marine Precinct, but acknowledged it would take some time to turn a profit from the venture. (see story here)

“It’s the research and development that costs a lot of money,” he said. “New Zealand needs innovators.”

The Electric Boat Company is just one of a variety of businesses that are producing innovative products and services in the Bay of Plenty. They include longtime manufacturing export success stories like Trimax Mowing Systems and Puma Darts, and established agri businesses like Mossops Honey (see here).

Other examples are Jenkins Group, which has just partnered with US company Van Doren Sales, Inc. to globally launch the Robotics Plus apple packer (see here), and successful hi-tech startup SwipedOn, which now generates 90 percent of its revenues from offshore. (see here)

Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt says the Western Bay of Plenty is a strong destination for manufacturers.

“Manufacturing is a very important industry to us; we have a number of highly innovative, successful manufacturers in our region who are taking on the world,” he said.

“Key infrastructure such as the Port of Tauranga makes us a great place for exporters, commercial land availability is good, and our popularity as a destination helps to attract good staff.” 

According to Infometrics data from Priority One, in 2016-17, manufacturing was the highest contributing sector to Western Bay GDP at 9.2 percent. The sector also made up 9.1 percent of filled jobs – with job growth of four percent between 2016 and 2017.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec described the Western Bay as “an ideal location” for industrial and exporting businesses.

“We have easy proximity to the port and to strategic transport networks,” he said. “We’re seeing more new businesses set up or locate here for these reasons.”

In the following pages, we profile a small selection of the many innovative companies who are making it in the Bay.