Waitoa gets $100m milk plant

'The future for the region is bright'

ALI TOCKER AND KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
Scott Nelson
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

GOING UP: Fonterra Waitoa operations manager Scott Nelson, left, and nutritional services manager Kerry Butler stand on the site of a new $100m milk plant.

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Fonterra says it will build a $100 million long-life milk processing plant at its Waitoa site, bringing jobs and construction work to the Waikato.

Leaders and residents of the small town between Morrinsville and Te Aroha were buzzing at the news, saying it would bring new vibrancy to the area.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the plant would provide 50 new jobs, construction work and new opportunities for North Island farmers.

It will be built beside the existing Fonterra plant at Waitoa, which makes infant milk formula and cheese.

The owner of the Waitoa General Store, Jenny Liu, said all of Waitoa was excited. "Customers came in all day buzzing about it, everyone is happy.

"I'm hoping it will help make Waitoa busy and it will help my business grow."

Matamata-Piako District Mayor Hugh Vercoe said the announcement showed Fonterra was seriously invested in the region. "It's just another major player that has chosen to invest significantly and expand operations . . . confirming they are here for the long haul," he said.

Investment in the new plant would filter through to local contractors and help bolster a region already flourishing, Vercoe said. The 50 new jobs, as well as those from the build, would only increase opportunities for job seekers.

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sandra Perry said the expected economic growth from the new plant showed the region was shrugging off any lingering effects of the recession.

"It's fantastic . . . There's a whole supply chain that will benefit and, with small manufacturing companies out there struggling; let's hope there will be some on-flow benefits for them.

"The future for the region is bright."

Spierings said the plant would meet growing demand in Asia for long-life milk products. The products would include milk and cream for the food service sector.

The new operation would enable Fonterra to boost its production of long-life milk products by 100 per cent over the next few years, Spierings said.

The plant would create new winter milking opportunities for North Island farmers, Spierings said.

"UHT [ultra-heat-treated] production requires year-round milk supply, so we will be talking to our farmers about the opportunity for more of them to take up winter milk contracts. This will enable them to take advantage of the milk price premium that these contracts include."

Waikato University agribusiness professor Jacqueline Rowarth said the new jobs for building work and running the plant was good news economically

However, winter milking had issues that made some farmers question whether it was economically worthwhile, Rowarth said.

To service the new plant, Fonterra would need to consider paying farmers a much higher premium for winter milk contracts, than it did last year, Rowarth suggested.

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- Waikato Times

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