Our history

A long and proud history of serving our region

The nature of our business has changed and grown significantly over the past 150 years, but our fundamental purpose remains the same: together, we build a thriving region by connecting you to the world. 

The thriving metropolitan hub we know today as Ahuriri was once the industrial heart of Napier, where life revolved around the hustle and bustle of our early port. Port Ahuriri, as it was then known, was home to a tight-knit community of hard-working wharfies who spent their days ferrying goods for export out to ships anchored in the bay.

The location of the port was the source of fierce public debate in the late 1800s, with many arguing that it should be shifted from Port Ahuriri to deeper waters off Bluff Hill, where the first blocks of a breakwater had been laid. Debate continued for decades, with both the breakwater port and the port at Ahuriri being used until 1931.

The devastating Napier Earthquake put an end to the issue, raising large areas of the seabed and making the port at Ahuriri unusable. Fortunately, the breakwater port remained accessible and proved a crucial lifeline for the people of Hawke’s Bay in the aftermath of the quake. As Hawke’s Bay was rebuilt, the breakwater under Bluff Hill was settled upon as the new location of our port, and has been a vital gateway to our region ever since.

The port was run by the Napier Harbour Board until 1988-89, when government waterfront reforms saw the creation of the Port of Napier as a limited liability company. Today, Napier Port is owned by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council through its investment arm, Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company. A portion of the profit made through our operations goes back to the regional council in the form of a dividend, which helps to subsidise rates for the people of Hawke’s Bay along with funding a number of council initiatives.

Today, Napier Port is a dynamic operation linked to more than 27,000 jobs across the region. It remains Hawke’s Bay’s connection to the world, welcoming more than 115,000 cruise passengers and handling more than 5.5 million tonnes of cargo in the year to 30 September 2019.

Take a look back

We’ve been officially welcoming ships to Central New Zealand since becoming a Customs Port of Entry in 1855. Take a walk through our archives to see how we’ve grown and changed over the course of our history.