Coronavirus: Gisborne exports work on contingency plans

By Aroha Mane

Ngāti Porou Seafoods Group could be returning their live lobster catch intended for the China market to the ocean after a halt in export demands following the mysterious coronavirus. The challenges of the deadly virus have been felt in the Gisborne region, in the export of lobsters, horticulture, fisheries and now logging.

Ngāti Porou Seafoods Group General Manager Mark Ngata says, “The impact to us obviously the fisherman have been stopped fishing, the plant here has been stopped from receiving lobster, so those things have an impact not just on the fisherman but our plant here.”

Ngāti Porou Seafoods Group is in a collective partnership with Port Nicholson fisheries, New Zealand's largest live lobster Māori export business, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, there's been a halt to the production line.

“We're currently looking at plans to do whole cooked, frozen and even sell fish in our retail shop, even the crayfish. So we're looking to do mitigation plans, so we can move what's already been landed.”

The logging industry is also feeling the same effects, Eastland Group chief operating officer Andrew Gaddum says they've to stop exports until further notice.

Eastland Group Chief Operating Officer Andrew Gaddum says, “Predominantly our exports go to China and in recent days we've been informed by our exporters that they cutting off their exports to China. So it's impacted about 70% of our business at this stage, we are still going to be exporting wood to Korea and some to China.”

Eastland Port employs 140 people, 60% of his staff are Māori. Gaddum says there is no employment at the port that has been adversely affected as a result of the halt of exports.

“I certainly think if this plays out over a longer period of time, then there will be a need for central Government to help support our forestry supply chain. It is going to have a significant impact in our region if it extends beyond a couple of weeks.”

At a meeting yesterday with the Ministry of Primary industries, the Gisborne District Council and local exporting groups it was raised that several other logging companies in the region would soon temporarily stop all log exports.