At the official opening of Silver Fern Farms’ new world-class Te Aroha beef processing facility last week, the company also announced its intention to make a sizeable donation to a community initiative of major significance to Te Aroha.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive, Keith Cooper, revealed that the co-operative and its local farmer-suppliers had jointly contributed to a dedicated Te Aroha Community Fund over the period the plant had been out of operation.
Silver Fern Farms’ Te Aroha beef plant was destroyed by fire in December 2010, devastating the company’s local workforce and impacting heavily on the Te Aroha community. Fully aware of the uncertainty the community faced, the company signalled its intent early-on to rebuild a new state-of-the-art flagship processing operation on the same site.
In the interim period, the company had endeavoured to provide alternative options for staff whose livelihoods were affected by the fire, to the extent of making positions available at neighbouring plants, providing accommodation supplements in the early stages and donating meat for food parcels for those in need.
“We were heartened by the way the Te Aroha community rallied so bravely around affected Silver Fern Farms employees. From the outset, we were determined to make a meaningful contribution to the township above and beyond our commitment to rebuild – one that would acknowledge the support of the Te Aroha community into the future. We reached out to our loyal suppliers in the area and their response to the appeal was overwhelming” said Cooper.
Over the last two years the company had been working in partnership with the Matamata-Piako District Council to identify where the fund might ultimately be best deployed. This culminated in the co-operative proudly announcing base funding of $500,000 for the establishment of the Silver Fern Farms Te Aroha Events Centre in association with the Te Aroha Events Centre Charitable Trust. The Events Centre has been a long-hoped for facility in the Te Aroha area to support community health and wellbeing, and Silver Fern Farms’ donation will provide a major funding boost to progress the initiative.
Silver Fern Farms’ Te Aroha plant will be fully commissioned ahead of the new season and will employ up to 380 staff when operating at full capacity, which is welcome news for the township.
“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.”