Ashburton wins co-operative crown

01:12, Jul 16 2012

Ashburton has been crowned the "co-operative capital'' of the country by the New Zealand Co-operatives Association.

The Mid-Canterbury township boasts more than 40 co-operatively owned businesses and has been awarded the title as part of the UN 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.

Co-operative Association chairperson Blue Read said Ashburton's co-operatives provided many farming, business and household requirements for the wider community.

"Just as Paeroa has its large bottle of L&P, Ohakune has its carrot and Rakaia its large scale salmon, we are offering Ashburton the right to erect the International Year of Co-operatives emblem on its outskirts as a welcome to the region," Read said.

Local farmer Jack Allan, a Fonterra milk supplier and a former chairman of the Ashburton Trading Society (now branded ATS) said he liked the idea of Mid-Canterbury and Ashburton being branded the co-operative capital.

Co-operatives led to members being offered competitive prices for commonly sourced material.

"Just look at what cooperatives have done for the region and even nationally," Allan said. "Cooperatively-owned buying groups like ATS have been the catalyst for competitive prices in the rural supplies sector for the entire Canterbury Province and even further afield.

Cooperatives are more prolific in rural areas, which is put down to the community knowing their neighbours and a greater readiness in the country to help each other out.

Ashburton Electricity, a locally owned co-operative network company based in Mid-Canterbury, was another example of a successful jointly owned business, Allan said.

"When Ashburton Electricity was separated and established as a lines company, people readily accepted it as a co-operative, because they have high regard for the transparency and ethics of co-operative businesses."

Ashburton District Council Mayor Angus McKay said he was delighted with the "co-operative capital" title, and was a member of several local co-operative businesses.

He is particularly proud of Ashburton Electricity which returns $3 to $5 million (depending on profitability) to the community each year.

This includes between $100 and $140 in free line charges for low income families.

"It's Ashburton to a T and has my total support," Mr McKay said. "I'd be happy to promote the idea with the council, the community the local co-operative businesses to see how we can best use the "Co-operative Capital" branding."