Million dollar investment at Pareora plant as Silver Fern Farms prepares to close Fairton

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton.

Silver Fern Farms looks set to invest another $1 million at its Pareora plant in what its chief executive calls a "significant investment" in the site.

The money would add to the $7m already spent expanding the South Canterbury plant's venison area and new cold storage facilities.

It could bring another 100 jobs with it – and perhaps provide work for those who will lose their jobs if the company's plant at Fairton, Ashburton, closes.

Silver Fern Farms will spend another $1 million at its Pareora plant near Timaru if the proposed closure of the Fairton ...

Silver Fern Farms will spend another $1 million at its Pareora plant near Timaru if the proposed closure of the Fairton plant goes ahead.

Silver Fern Farms on Wednesday confirmed it wanted to close Fairton, making 370 positions redundant.

READ MORE: Silver Fern Farms to cut Fairton plant, affecting 370 jobs

It said 230 jobs may be available to suitably qualified workers at the company's Pareora, Belfast and Hokitika plants.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton said extra people would be needed in Pareora as processing capacity shifted from Ashburton.

If Fairton closed, as the company expected, it would make a "significant investment" at the Pareora plant, he confirmed.

That would create about 100 jobs at Pareora. They would be a combination of new roles and "natural" openings left by non-returning seasonal workers, Hamilton said.

The work would be largely seasonal, with some supervisor positions also being available.

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Candidates – from Fairton or elsewhere – would be assessed for their suitability upon application, he said.

Fairton had a six-month season while Pareora – where cattle, lamb, venison and bobby calves were processed – had a longer season, he said.

Silver Fern Farms shifted bobby calf processing from Fairton to Pareora last year, after failing to reach an agreement for a later start time to the season at Fairton.

It invested in its Pareora venison plant as it decommissioned its venison plant at Islington, Christchurch.

Overall, the shift would not mean a significant change in how the company secured its meat supply, Hamilton said.

"Eighty per cent of suppliers to Fairton already supply to Pareora. We are very keen to retain all that supply and grow it.

"I don't think the move to consolidate volume at Pareora will have an impact on end market pricing."

Aoraki Development chief executive Nigel Davenport said the likely closure of the Fairton plant was sad news for those affected, but that the Canterbury community ought to act to help find people new employment.

South Canterbury was consolidating its position as a hub for large-scale food processing.

Silver Fern Farms, Fonterra, Talley's, McCain's and DB Breweries were all in the region for a reason, he said.

"An extra 100 jobs on top of the well-known developments of Fonterra and Oceania further down the track: what it does highlight is the South Canterbury region has evolved over these last 30 years.

"It's not the end of the story for Ashburton employees."

New Zealand Meat Workers Union Canterbury branch secretary Bill Watt said Fairton's demise was "written on the wall" for some time. It remained a shock to the families involved.

 - Stuff

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