Big thanks 30 years on from Think Big plant

19:31, Dec 12 2012
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Good neighbours: From left, Alison Smith, Ballance Agri-Nutrients general manager of the petrochemical and Super Air divisions John Maxwell, and Ms Smith's father-in-law, Jack Smith, who once opposed the plant.

The closure of New Plymouth's airport forced Ballance Agri-Nutrients' chief executive to miss the 30th birthday party of the Kapuni ammonia-urea plant last week.

Larry Bilodeau was to welcome about 150 guests to the celebrations.

Instead, chairman David Graham did the honours and said the plant, the first of of the Think Big projects promoted by former prime minister the late Rob Muldoon, was the jewel in the crown for the co-operative.

It made a significant contribution to the co-operative's bottom line and its trickle-down effect on the Taranaki economy was also huge.

South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop highlighted a family connection to the establishment of the plant.

As a minister in Muldoon's National government, the late Venn Young - Mr Dunlop's brother-in-law - looked at a urea plant in the United States. Back in the 1980s, farmers were unsure about the benefits of urea, Mr Dunlop said.

The plant turned natural gas, which used to be flared and wasted, into valuable fertiliser.

Urea boosted production on farms which led to increased agricultural exports from New Zealand and the presence of the plant spread valuable dollars around the district, he said.

Among the guests was a vigorous opponent of the plant when it was established, Jack Smith who said it had in fact proved to be a good neighbour.

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