Elizabeth Wall was absolutely "devastated" two years ago when she woke up to find herself jobless due to a fire.
But Mrs Wall was all smiles yesterday as she worked away at the rebuilt Silver Fern Farms Te Aroha Meat Processing plant.
Looking back on the experience of the fire, Mrs Wall said she had "a real gut feeling of devastation".
But after passing the time working at the Waitoa meat plant and Paeroa Bobby Calves, there was delight for Mrs Wall when she found out she could return to her dual role of janitor and garment person at the Te Aroha plant.
"I was excited. I was looking forward to it," she said.
"I heard that it was going to be a big plant, and new. I think in my mind I was coming to this freshly new plant and because I'm a janitor, the plants I've worked in you've always got to work hard to try and keep it up to scratch, and knowing that is a new plant . . . it's a lot easier.
"It's like my new baby."
Prime Minister John Key officially opened the "world-class" plant and took a tour through with staff.
"It's arguably the best meat-processing plant I've been in," he said.
"It's obviously not only state of the art, but it's obviously going to provide world-class product."
Mr Key said the plant and its staff were responsible for "putting New Zealand at the forefront of food production."
The $67 million plant is welcome news for the community of Te Aroha, with the prospect of 380 staff being employed when it is running at full capacity.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said the plant was something special for the town to be proud of.
"From a major disaster that affected our business, our customers and our suppliers almost two years ago to the day . . . This is not a rebuild of Te Aroha, this is a brand new plant, a showcase plant, a state of the art plant and one that we, our people and our farmer suppliers are immensely proud of," he said.
Mr Cooper acknowledged the devastating circumstances the fire caused to Te Aroha and was over-whelmed by the support of the community.
Silver Fern Farms and its asso-ciated supplying farmers were determined to give back to the town - in the form of a $500,000 contribution towards the proposed Te Aroha Event Centre.
Mrs Wall said the community was looking forward to having its plant back in action.
She said working there and living in the Te Aroha community was like having a huge extended family who supported everyone throughout the hard times.
"Te Aroha is quite a whanau. The community were wonderful. They really supported the families, 100 per cent actually. They were very generous."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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