Demo farm at hub plan's heart

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014

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A $26.5 million dairy and research hub, the first of its kind in New Zealand, is planned for Southland, but farmers will need to pay to get it over the last financial hurdle.

The Southern Dairy Development Trust has been working on the project complete with the latest research facility and business hub.

It aims to create a permanent commercial demonstration farm able to show best practice dairy farming and provide accurate farm, environmental and financial information to everyone.

Project leader Maurice Hardie said with the lease of the current demonstration farm at Wallacetown expiring in 2016, now was the right time to to look at other options.

The project's primary aim was to improve the performance and protect the viability of existing dairy farms in southern South Island, he said.

It would also develop and test new options for dairying , support the responsible and sustainable growth of dairying in the south, and promote industry strategy.

It would be the first demonstration farm able to conduct research on an industry scale, he said.

The project team was now in the investment stage and, arguably, had most of the investors in place, he said.

Capital contributions from partners would provide $14m to $15m, and capital from the current demonstration farm would be used. A bank debt of about 45 per cent of the cost was also assumed, he said.

The next step was to get dairy farmers to contribute financially. This could cost about $2000 per farm, he said.

While he expected not everyone would be in a position to contribute, he hoped the contributions from others would balance it out.

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said on the whole, the hub would be a positive move for the region, but he expected there would be some resistance from farmers on the financial aspects.

Farmers in the region already paid a lot in levies toward industry good and whether they got value for money from these was an ongoing debate.

Federated Farmers supported the idea as long as it was robust and relevant to the farmers in the region, he said.

Looking at research, development, and innovation in any business was important. Southland-specific research carried out locally on an industry scale would be a positive for the community, he said.

Hardie, along with Southern Dairy Development Trust chairman Matthew Richards presented the concept to Environment Southland councillors on Wednesday.

At the meeting, Hardie said the environment was a big challenge for them and they wanted to get it right.

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Councillor Nicol Horrell congratulated them on an ambitious project and said it would be great to have interaction between the council and research staff.

Chairwoman Ali Timms asked if they had spoken with other research entities to ensure they were not doubling up on anything.

Hardie said they had been in discussions.

The hub concept proposal was put together by the trust, the Southland Demonstration Farm and Dairy NZ.

If it goes ahead the hub will be operational by June 2016, and located in central Southland.

 

- The Southland Times

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