Big Tobacco is getting even bigger in Lower Hutt as Imperial Tobacco’s Petone factory gears up to send 4 billion cigarettes a year to Australia. The long-established factory in Richmond St will be quadrupling its exports across the ditch and introducing 50 new jobs, with a two-year, $45-million upgrade nearing completion. Six new production lines feature German machinery capable of spitting out 8000 tax free Winston cigarettes each minute – nearly half a million per hour. Manufacturing staff numbers are increasing from 70 to 120.
Most of Imperial’s cigarettes for Australia are made in Sydney by British American Tobacco, but that agreement runs out in June, with Petone set to benefit. Packets of up to 40 cigarettes in brands including JPS, Horizon and Davidoff will be manufactured in Lower Hutt and exported to Australia.
Factory manager Michael McInnarney, who has worked there for more than a decade, said staff had worked hard to convince the British parent company that it was worthy of a major investment, which could have otherwise gone to somewhere in Asia.
“A variety of other sites were looked at, but it was decided logistically and for transport costs that it made very good sense to have it in New Zealand,” Mr McInnarney said.
“And to be blunt, a lot of staff here have been working their arses off to get ourselves to the point where we are seen by the group as capable of taking on the additional production.”
The number of cigarettes smoked in New Zealand each year has fallen from more than 6 billion in the early 1980s, to just over 2 billion in 2011, according to Statistics NZ figures.
Regulation has progressively increased taxes as well as restricting sales and advertising.