Tararua factory upgrade gets go-ahead

A last-ditch attempt to stop a multimillion-dollar expansion at Fonterra's Pahiatua site has been thrown out by the Environment Court.

Horizons Regional Council and Tararua District Council approved permits for the expansion of the Mangamutu Dairy Factory, situated 2 kilometres west of Pahiatua, in August. An appeal to the Environment Court by former Pahiatua farmer Ross Gillespie, who raised concerns about the impact the increased milk processing would have on the environment, looked set to slow the plans.

But a requirement for Gillespie to provide a deposit of $97,000 to cover court costs had not been met, so the Environment Court has thrown out the challenge.

The new dryer and storage area upgrade is expected to cost about $235 million, creating 45 jobs at the site and about 400 jobs during the construction period. It was also estimated to bring more than $300m to the Tararua economy.

Fonterra Pahiatua manager Bill Boakes said he was "thrilled" and "excited" to see the proposal finally getting the go-ahead.

He said the company had talked to neighbours, who seemed generally supportive of the plans. The co-operative was planning to meet with neighbours regularly.

Pahiatua man Bill Wallace, who lives near the plant, said he was happy with the extension.

He had initial concerns about the noise of the plant, but that had been dealt with.

"One good thing about the expansion - it has got the noise level down."

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said the announcement was exciting news for the community and would create new opportunities.

"This expansion will mean another 45 fulltime jobs for the local community."

The new dryer will allow Pahiatua's Fonterra site to take all the milk from Hawke's Bay to Wellington and it will be able to process 2.4 million litres of extra milk a day.

Fonterra's director of New Zealand operations, Robert Spurway, said the co-operative's investment in milk powder dryers was to meet the worldwide growing demand for dairy nutrition.

"Last season, we set a new record for the most milk collected in one day and overall milk production has been increasing by roughly 3 per cent each year.

"This dryer will help us process the extra milk in a way that delivers the most value to our farmers."

Boakes said Pahiatua's new dryer would use the latest energy-efficient processing technology and be the first in the country to reuse its own condensate. The wastewater it creates will also be treated and used for irrigation.

Preliminary earthworks had begun at the site.

The first milk powder from the new dryer is expected to roll out of the site by September 2015.

Wairarapa MP John Hayes said the expansion would provide an economic boost for Pahiatua and for Tararua.

It could have positive flow-on effects, such as securing the future of the rail line between Masterton and Pahiatua, and better water quality in the Mangahao River, he said.

Manawatu Standard