By David Porter - Bay of Plenty Times. Photo: John Borren.
Seeka's iconic new head office in the kiwifruit heartland of Te Puke was opened today by the Maori King, Kiingi Tuheitia. The ceremony was attended by Trade Minister Todd McClay and some 400 growers, local government officials and community leaders.
Seeka has spent more than a year and $4 million rebuilding, modernising and customising the well-known kiwifruit slice-shaped 18-sided (octodecagon) building, a 1200 square metre former tourist centre set in 7.5 hectares of countryside just outside Te Puke.
NZX-listed Seeka is Australasia's biggest kiwifruit grower and a leading premium produce company.
Chief executive Michael Franks said Seeka had outgrown its old head office in Te Puke.
"Last year we rebranded and repositioned the company and we now have a head office that is consistent with our vision for the company. We remain close to Te Puke and are headquartered amongst our growers in a modern, user-friendly building that will allow us to engage much more effectively with them."
Kiingi Tuheitia said the Kingitanga had a long association with Tauranga Moana.
"We are honoured to take part in opening the new Seeka head office. Maori trusts are the largest New Zealand shareholder group in Seeka and the company has been a committed partner of iwi in helping our people develop their resources. I am delighted to be here to demonstrate our ongoing engagement with the region, and our support for Seeka and what it is doing for the kiwifruit industry and for all of us economically."
Mr Franks said Seeka was equally honoured that the Maori King had agreed to formally open the new headquarters. Seeka has had a long association with iwi in the region, and the original building and land for the new head office was acquired from a local Maori Trust.
"We have delivered on the promise we made when we purchased the land," he said. "We are committed to our growers, stakeholders, and to the local iwi and the community. 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."
Trade Minister and Rotorua MP Todd McClay said Seeka's investment showed the great strengths of the Bay of Plenty kiwifruit industry.
"The sector is creating jobs and is an extremely important part of New Zealand's export profile. As a local MP and Trade Minister, I'm always keen to support great local initiatives that deliver benefits to our community."
Mr Franks said that in the short- to medium-term, Seeka planned to relocate its existing laboratory in Te Puke township to new premises adjoining the head office.
"And we intend in the longer term to 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."
What is Seeka?
Seeka worked with local Te Puke firm Architectural Page Henderson to renovate the unusual 18-sided structure, originally built in 1985 as a tourist centre and designed to look like a slice of kiwifruit.
The key changes have included 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 also include a gym and showers, and a cafeteria.
The renovations retained the structure's original structure of rafters cantilevered off a central column made up of wooden poles. Other features include new air conditioning, a new roof with skylights allowing fresh air to flush through the building, custom-built LED environmentally sensitive lighting, and an IT-based security system with swipe cards. Office equipment includes adjustable stand-up desks.
Seeka has also removed desk/office based printers and now has just three, with individual printouts accessed via swipe card on demand.
There are now around 80 staff in the new head office, up from 60 in the old one. The finance, corporate, health and safety, post harvest, orchard, grower services and IT departments are now all based in the new head office.
"The staff love the new work space, and especially the access to the rural location where they can go for walks or run during breaks," said Seeka General Manager Grower Services and Marketing Annmarie Lee.
"We have moved out and into our community of growers. It's a much more inviting location with plenty of parking. We want people to drop in to visit and have a coffee."
Mrs Lee said the redesign retained personal space for all staff members, while providing plenty of communal areas and pods for meetings, as well as hot desk points for staff visiting from other locations.
"We also have a 150-seat auditorium for our grower and staff events, which will also potentially be accessible for community use."
About the building refurbishment
-Architects: Architectural Page Henderson
-Construction: McMillan Lockwood
-Interior design: Bubble Interiors
-Furniture supply: Modern Office
-Lighting design: Inlucem