Silver Fern Farms to close Christchurch plant with possible loss of 54 jobs
Silver Fern Farms (SFF) has announced it will close its Christchurch venison processing plant, with the loss of 54 jobs.
New Zealand's largest meat processor said it was relocating its Islington plant and building "a new integrated venison processing plant at its Pareora site, in South Canterbury".
Secretary of the Canterbury/Marlborough/Nelson/Westland branch of the Meat Workers Union, Bill Watts, said it was likely the same number of jobs would be created at the Pareora site, although he had been given no assurances.
In a statement SFF did not say how many jobs would be created at Pareora, where the company intends to spend $5 million on a processing operation to service the upper and central South Island.
SFF chief executive Dean Hamilton said the Islington site was the only one the company leased, and the closure came about as a result of the pending expiry of its lease, and change in surrounding land use.
SFF currently leases land on Waterloo Road. The lease is shortly due to expire and the current plant buildings on the site are planned to be demolished to make way for new commercial developments at the Waterloo Business Park.
"Over the past year and a half the site around us has been re-developed into a commercial business park, which is good for the area, however, it's not going to be suitable for our specific processing operations going forward," Hamilton said.
"Our Islington team are skilled and dedicated people and we have options for them to transfer to other sites either locally, to Belfast or Fairton, to our Hokitika venison plant, or to the new venison processing operation at our Pareora site, and they will retain all their service benefits in the process," he said.
Pareora was an "obvious site".
"It is central to many of our deer farmers. We own the land and therefore provides long-term certainty. We can take advantage of existing assets and services already on site (such as our cold chain). It is an opportunity for us to invest in a modern venison plant and we have the ability to continue to expand our operations on that site in the future," Hamilton said.
Watts said workers had a week to decide what they wanted to do. Many were settled in Christchurch so would find a move difficult.
"They are entitled to redundancy payments. This has been on the horizon for some time but it doesn't make it any easier when the axe falls," Watts said.