Tannery expansion promises extra jobs

Last updated 05:00 07/07/2012

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A Washdyke tannery is undergoing a $3million renovation and will be hiring additional employees after securing a long-term processing agreement with Silver Fern Farms.

In about two months, New Zealand Light Leathers will begin processing all cattle hides and deerskins from the company's South Island producers.

The tannery, which has been operating since 1974, had been focused solely on deerskin processing since 2004, said managing director Neil Dickson.

The upgrade will allow the tannery to bring in cattle hides in another processing stream.

Mr Dickson estimated that the expansion will create about 10 processing jobs year-round, and that number could grow to as many as 25 jobs added in peak kill season.

It's also likely that additional management positions will be created, he said.

Silver Fern Farms had been processing its South Island leather through another company's Christchurch plant, chief executive Keith Cooper said. But earthquake destruction forced that company's South Island plant to close, and hides had to be shipped to its North Island plant.

The agreement with New Zealand Light Leathers eliminates the need to ship product to the North Island, he said, reducing cost and environmental impact.

"From Silver Fern Farms' perspective the agreement makes total sense," Mr Cooper said.

Cattle hides will go through the first stages of processing at the Washdyke plant, Mr Dickson said, and deerskins will be processed from raw hides through to finished leather.

Silver Fern Farms processes about 220,000 cattle hides and 100,000 deerskins in the South Island each year. The leather goes into products made by companies including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, MaxMara and Hermes, as well as vehicle manufacturers such as Toyota Lexus Japan.

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- The Timaru Herald

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