Prime Minister the Rt Hon John Key opened Silver Fern Farms’ brand new flagship processing plant at Te Aroha this afternoon.
The new plant, the first to be built by the farmer co-operative under its current name Silver Fern Farms, replaces the beef processing plant seriously damaged by fire on the site in December 2010.
The ceremony was attended by representatives of central and local government, local iwi, and members of the Te Aroha community in addition to Silver Fern Farms’ board of directors, leadership team, plant management and contractors involved in the project.
Silver Fern Farms’ chairman, Eoin Garden, and chief executive, Keith Cooper, welcomed a large gathering of all those associated with the rebuild including contractors, local government representatives, local iwi and members of the Te Aroha community.
At the opening, Garden said the investment of $67m to commission the state-of-the-art facility was testament to the co-operative’s strong confidence in the sector and he indicated the clear alignment of this investment with the Government’s business growth agenda.
Keith Cooper spoke of the importance this plant has, not only to farmer-suppliers in the surrounding rural areas, but also to the local Te Aroha community. The fact the plant will be fully operational ahead of the new season is welcome news for the township, with the prospect it will employ up to 380 staff when operating at full capacity.
“The whole community has been behind the project every step of the way” said Te Aroha plant manager, Lance Warmington. “The company’s commitment to rebuilding Te Aroha is a big deal here – it means future security for hundreds of families in the area.”
Positive spin-offs for local community
Throughout the rebuilding process, Silver Fern Farms endeavoured to provide alternative options for staff whose livelihoods were affected by the fire, to the extent of making positions available at neighbouring plants and providing accommodation supplements in the early stages. In tough times, the company’s significant capital spend also has provided positive spin-offs to the local economy as a result of the number of contractors throughout the region engaged during the course of construction.
“Our whole team are extremely proud of the facility we’ve designed and created,” Warmington added.
“The company culture and the Silver Fern Farms brand and all it stands for are really embedded in the overall look and feel of the new plant, and our people are responding really positively to the new working environment.”
Eco-efficiency and sustainability “top of mind”
Developed in consultation with internationally recognised experts in process layout and ergonomics, the plant incorporates the latest meat processing technologies, including sophisticated traceability and yield collection systems. Cooper said the new design reflects the company’s focus on plant economics and best practice processing, and that eco-efficiency and sustainability were top of mind considerations.
“The rebuild gave us the opportunity to review the environmental footprint of our operation. Our focus is improving environmental efficiency while reducing costs through better use of resources and reduction of waste.” he said . “As a result, the plant sets a new industry benchmark in line with global customer requirements – it uses significantly less electricity and water per head and discharges less effluent per head processed.”
In his address, Cooper also thanked the co-operative’s loyal farmer-suppliers in the area for supporting the company through the re-build.
“We are grateful to those suppliers who have stood by us and persevered while we got the new plant up and running – we know the disruption has been an inconvenience for many. But we are enthusiastic about the service levels and advantages we can now offer them as a result of our investment.”
Silver Fern Farms intends to open the plant to farmer-suppliers and the local community in a series of open days in February 2013.