New Zealand's largest tobacco manufacturer has finished a $45 million upgrade to its factory which will quadruple its exports to Australia.
The expansion to Imperial Tobacco's factory in Petone, north of Wellington, took over 18 months and includes the addition of hi-tech equipment including a machine which can produce up to 8000 cigarettes a minute.
More than three billion cigarettes and 700 tonnes of roll your own tobacco will be manufactured at the plant and exported to Australia each year.
The Cancer Society has criticised the upgrade and the decision by Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace to officially open the expansion on Monday.
"We believe long term that this is going to be more detrimental to the community and New Zealand," spokeswoman Skye Kimura told NZ Newswire.
"It surprises me that he [Mr Wallace] would support this given the council has adopted so many smoke free policies."
The mayor, who doesn't smoke, told Fairfax he saw smoking as a personal choice and he would support legitimate businesses who invested in the city.
"I'm here today as mayor to support one of our largest ratepayers, one of our biggest employers in this city," Mr Wallace said.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) director Ben Youdan earlier told NZ Newswire that New Zealanders could be taking responsibility for a considerable number of deaths in Australia.
The cigarettes would be smoked by about 100,000 Australians, about half of who would die prematurely from tobacco, he said.
Imperial Tobacco's Petone site has been home to tobacco companies since 1929. It was owned by British American Tobacco before Imperial took it over in 1999.
The factory employs about 200 people.
The upgrade took place after Imperial Tobacco New Zealand won a worldwide tender to supply the Australian market.
The contract was previously held by British American Tobacco in Sydney.