New industry HQs ‘inviting to growers’
The opening p-wasagrandaffairwithaformalowhiri to welcome i theK-M-aoriking, ngi Tuheitia, and manuhiri (visitors) to the site. Trade Minister Todd McClay and Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber also attended. Michael Franks i saidK-Seekawashonouredthat ngi Tuheitia had agreed to
open the new headquarters, adding that the company had a In late March, Seeka opened $4 million refurbished offices long association with iwi in the region, and had bought the at the site of the former Kiwi 360 tourist spot north of Te original building and land from a local M-aori trust. Puke. Zespri is also planning to break ground i soonK-onaInastatement, ngi Tuheitia said that M-aori trusts are the new $43 million headquarters in Mount Maunganui. largest New Zealand shareholder group in Seeka “and the Seeka’s move from its old offices in Te Puke township came company has been a committed partner of iwi in helping our on top of a rebranding last year that saw it reposition people develop their resources. I am delighted to be here to itself as a produce company, including changing its name demonstrate our ongoing engagement with the region, and from Seeka Kiwifruit Industries Ltd to just Seeka. our support for Seeka and what it is doing for the kiwifruit
industry and for all of us economically.”
“This new headquarters allows us to bring all of the strands of our business together and is a great place for us to welcome our growers,” the company’s chief executive Michael Franks said. “We had outgrown our old head office.”
The building – a kiwifruit-slice-shaped 18-sided (octadecagon)
structure built in 1985 – underwent a complete overhaul that took more than a year. Seeka said the key changes include creating segmented office spaces for the staff around the outside perimeter of the building, each with a view of the countryside, with the largely open plan central area free for visitors and meeting spaces. The new offices house 80 staff – up from 60 at the old headquarters – and also include a gym and showers, a cafeteria and a 150-seat auditorium. The giant kiwifruit slice on the roadside that used to advertise the tourist centre is still there, but also got a facelift. Michael Franks said that in the longer term the company would “develop this site into a campus for all aspects of our business. Given the planned industrial park just across the road, we would like to see a cluster of related businesses here in what has traditionally been the heartland of kiwifruit”.
Meanwhile, in Mt Maunganui, Zespri is forging ahead with its proposed new headquarters on Maunganui Road. The company bought the 8,100 square-metre site off the Tauranga City Council in late 2015 for just over $10 million, and in December last year, the Zespri board approved plans for the $43 million building.
Zespri had also grown out of its headquarters – former Mt Maunganui council offices built in the 1960s – and moved some of its staff into a temporary building in 2015. Around 250 people currently work at the Maunganui Road site, but the company expects that to grow to over 400 over the next 10 years. The current building, as chief executive Lain Jager told growers last year “really isn’t suitable as the home of an international brand”.
Speaking at one of Zespri’s regular grower road show meetings, Lain Jager outlined several options, ranging in total cost from $38 million (with no underground carpark) to $56 million for what he described as a traditional building in which each staff member has a designated workspace. The $43 million building settled on is for a design that incorporates activity-based working, which provides different working spaces for different activities and uses less space per worker, and a 190-space carpark. Currently Zespri has only 58 car parks, which means neighbouring residential streets are often clogged with vehicles. The company is also aiming for the equivalent of a 5 Green Star sustainability rating – the second to highest level.
How the building will be financed is still being finalised at the time of writing, however in a notice to growers and shareholders, the company said funding would be through a combination of debt and internal cash flows. The architects are Warren & Mahoney, and Hawkins Construction has been awarded the construction contract.
Like Seeka, Zespri says it is aiming for a building that will be inviting to growers and other industry stakeholders, with room for meetings and informal visits. “We feel that there’s a massive advantage in opening up for the whole industry,” Zespri’s chief financial officer, Dave Hazlehurst, said. “And I mean all stakeholders – post-harvest, growers, shareholders, everyone that’s involved in the industry.”
Asked about whether the company was worried it might attract the kind of criticism Fonterra faced over its new headquarters in Auckland, Dave Hazlehurst said that Zespri had consulted with the industry, including growers, from the outset and was “pretty clear and pretty well supported across the board”.
“I’m not going to compare with Fonterra – but you raised Fonterra. They’re in the middle of Auckland so that’s slightly different. Over 80% of our volume comes within an hour’s drive from here, and we went out pretty openly to growers and made it clear on the different types of building that we could have,” he said.
The project will be carried out in stages, with staff moving into a partly completed building by the end of next year. Meanwhile, in advance of demolishing part of the old building to allow site works to get underway, Zespri will be housing some staff in alternative accommodation across the street.