Vet co-op celebrates 60 years

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 12:56 30/10/2012
Nicole Masters
CELEBRATION: Sandra McKenzie and Nigel Harwood with the birthday cake at the Rural Service Centre co-operative last week.

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Golden Bay's Rural Service Centre, a not-for-profit co-operative established 60 years ago to support farmers with vet services, is keeping it local.

Last year it turned over $6 million and most of that money remained in the Golden Bay community.

The centre celebrated its 60th birthday last week. "This is an investment of many generations," general manager Dave Egan said.

"Apart from IT and auditors, all our services are sourced right here in the bay. We've used local contractors for all our buildings.

"We try to support local groups wherever we can and we allow employees the time to take on community roles such as Fire Brigade and Search and Rescue."

The Rural Service Centre is based around Golden Bay's vet service. A vet club, it arose out of a 1950s government scheme.

Thanks to good governance, it's going strong today.

"It's never actually been stronger, thanks to the staff," chairman Nigel Harwood said.

There are only a handful of vet clubs left in New Zealand, with Golden Bay's employing four vets.

"A large number have become insolvent over the years. Only 15 per cent of vet services are provided through vet clubs in New Zealand now. At its peak it was 50 per cent," Mr Egan said.

"The biggest challenge has been finding people to commit to the time that governance requires," said Kath Sandall, long-time employee of the vet club.

Mrs Sandall said loyalty ran both ways within the Golden Bay community.

"We have a lot of local suppliers [in the shop] who wouldn't otherwise have outlets. We have a lot of organic fruits, people find they're here and come in for those things."

One major way the centre feeds its profits back to members is by waiving fuel charges for vet callouts.

This can mean the difference between paying $160 or $60 for many remotely based farmers.

"For that reason our vets do a lot more visits on the farm. Through that our level of animal welfare is improved," Mr Egan said.

Mr Harwood said Golden Bay found its own way to ensure the vet club is still around today.

"The isolation of the bay suited a co-operative type structure.

"I think the focus on services to members means we're not here to make a profit for someone else," Mr Harwood said.

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