Port Whangarei as it was known, handled dairy products, bulk fertiliser, forestry products and general cargo. Dry store and cool store buildings were also constructed to support the region’s agriculture industry. As ships got larger and the Port outgrew its facilities, it was decided to move Whangarei’s high volume sea-freight activities to Marsden Point, a transition that was completed in 2007.
Whangarei has long been recognised around the world as a boat/ship build and refit location. Slipways and ramps built by the Harbour Board in the 1960’s are still very much in operation and contribute to the success of local businesses and jobs. The industry’s longevity can be attributed to strong relationships with international clients, built over years of quality work at a reasonable cost completed by successive businesses.
From 1965 to 1998, ship building became established as a major industry at Port Whangarei. Engineering company WECO was regarded as the leading boat engineering company in New Zealand during that time. At its peak, WECO employed 250 and is credited by many as developing the skilled engineering labour force still leading the marine and engineering sectors in Whangarei today. The company was internationally successful building fishing boats, tuna boats, dredges and barges and completing ship refits.
In 1998 WECO was purchased by Northland Port Corporation and became Northport Engineering. After further ownership changes, the ship building business was returned to local private ownership in 2006. A further boost to the infrastructure and strength of the marine industry came in the late 1990’s when Tenix Shipbuilding NZ was established to build New Zealand’s four inshore patrol vessels.
While the port was transitioning to its new base, the redundant land and facilities were gradually acquired by private interests. These, along with other adjoining properties eventually became owned by one entity, Port Nikau. In 2010 the area attained ‘Port Nikau Environment’ status under the District Plan. The Mixed Use designation provides the framework to allow development opportunities for residential, retail, commercial, marine and other activities.