BUILDING CAPACITY: Kawerau Dairy’s new plant will have two dryers when in full operation. Photo Mark Rieder D8136-02

KAWERAU Dairy is less than two months away from commissioning its new plant, which will provide a new market for regional dairy farmers.

Kawerau Dairy general manager Dominic Young said construction of the plant was on schedule.

“We’re about 70 percent along. Most of our equipment is here in Kawerau and we are progressing towards putting everything in the plant,” he said.

“We will start commissioning milk in the second half of April.” The plant will produce conventional and organic milk powders.

Eleven Maori entities – Te Manawa o Tuhoe, Maori Investments, Putauaki Trust, Ngati Makino, Rotoiti 15, Tataiwhetu Lands Trust, Tapuika Holdings Ltd, Rotoma No.1 Inc, Wharepi Whanau Trust, Omataroa Rangitaiki No.2 Trust and Poutama Trust have collaborated to create a two-thirds majority in the entity. Japanese corporation Imanaka through its subsidiary, Cedenco Dairy, owns the remaining one-third.

Mr Young said Kawerau Dairy would have a symbiotic relationship with its community of stakeholders.

“Some shareholders have farms,” he said. “They have the opportunity to supply us but it’s not a cooperative.”

He said the project was as much a chance to build the community as it was a business opportunity.

“The community is important to us. One strategy when we developed this business was to consider the people of Kawerau, so we could come into an area that has had some tough times and create an employment option.”

He said the company provided as much spin-off business as possible for other local businesses.

“We’re employing 36 people and are using a lot of locally-sourced resources around the fringes,” he said.

The hope is the business will help create capacity for others in the region.

“With initiatives like ours and others that Poutama Trust is involved with in the industrial area, you can see a better future being built for Kawerau,” he said.

The business model has a strong environmental and cultural aspect that values responsibility over profits.

“The link with the land, the culture and the history are very strong parts of our story. We are a small entity and we are versatile and mindful that our responsibility is to give back to the community and the environment and make sure we are guardians of the land,” Mr Young said.

He said their unique point of view fitted with an increased desire by customers to buy ethically-grown foods.

“There is a lot of interest form overseas markets in how we are doing business. In the United States and Japan, they like the concept of products that are the result of sustainable farming,” he said.

“The generation that is coming up now want to see something different and we in New Zealand have always done it differently.”

With that knowledge, Kawerau Dairy is poised to meet that demand.

“It’s up to us to offer them something special,” he said.

Mr Young is aware that it will take more than just solid marketing to meet the expectations of their customer base.

“We are working from an added-value platform at the farm level. The added value comes from using environmentally sustainable farming practices,” he said.

“We want to produce high value products. We are a small place and we need to offer something special if we want to be successful.”