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Slow progress in securing tenants for regional food hub

Aerial view of Foodeast-haumako A multi-million government and council funded food hub could be without tenants when it is set to open in March 2024. The project has been marred with delays, a redesign to fit a revised budget as well as delays in the appointment of additional board members and a chief executive.

In July, the board of Foodeast-haumako promoted a walk about of the region’s home of food and beverage innovation to drum up support, along with the introduction of a potential but not yet committed tenant, Skybright. Foodeast-haumako chair Craig Foss, appointed by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment arm HBRIC, has dismissed any concerns in lack of signed up tenants, saying the board is working with companies which have expressed interest directly.

“There are seven companies with which the board is in discussions with, all at various stages of consideration. He added that no other companies are able to be named at this stage and as
of the beginning of August, no tenancy prospectus had been sent out nor any available information on tenancy rates.

He hoped that an interim CE would be in place to manage this important stage of securing tenants and seeing the completion of construction, set to end in November. A commercial agency may be required depending on how current discussions turn out, he says. Of great concern would be that HBRIC has an expectation of a 6% annual return on its investment and with a warehouse and some meeting rooms, there must be some uncertainty from investors. Potential tenant Skybright is an innovative health food company, that creates fermentation-derived novel protein products.

Skybright owner Steve Boggs is excited about the opportunities of establishing a presence at the food hub.

“We consider that foodeast-haumako offers an enhanced fit-for-purpose facility where we can develop and test our products for the local and international markets. We are very keen to see it reach its potential.”

Craig says “it was fantastic to have Skybright present to our shareholders, funders and others working alongside us.

“The presentation by Steve gave our partners a snapshot of the huge difference this facility will make to primary industry in our region.”

The vision of the facility is one of innovation – providing the food and beverage industry with connections that will assist businesses to develop new products and enhance existing ideas, to take them to national and international markets.

Foodeast-haumako is forecast to add $100 million to the region’s GDP over 15 years and 500 new full-time jobs. Investment in the project is in excess of $18m with HBRIC putting up $4 million for a 67% stake holding with Hastings District Council and Progressive Meats having a 16% share each.

The project was supported by a $12 million grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which will underpin most of the construction costs.

The foodhub project was initiated by Hastings District Council in 2018 with the ambition to develop new products and sustainable ways to meet the food needs for future generations.