A poultry giant plans to set up a broiler chicken farm in Northland with a capacity to stock up to 1.3 million chickens and employ 28 people.

Tegel Foods has applied to the Overseas Investment Office for the green light to buy just over 250 hectares of land at Arapohue, 16km south east of Dargaville.

The company - which requires OIA permission as it is part-owned by overseas interests -
has lodged a resource consent application with the Kaipara District Council.

In its application, Tegel said each of the 32 sheds housing the chickens would be 20m wide by 130m long and 4.5m high.

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Broiler chickens would be raised on site and then transported to Tegel's processing plant in Henderson, west Auckland, for slaughtering, packaging and distribution.

Broilers are raised purely for meet and reach slaughter-weight at five to seven weeks. Slower-growing breeds take about 14 weeks.

A Tegel Foods spokeswoman confirmed the company's plan for the farm at Arapohue, which was expected to create about 28 jobs if approved.

The company has not been given a timeframe as to when its consent applications will be processed and finalised.

The Ministry of Primary Industries said it would become involved only if there were animal welfare issues reported.

Deidre Sims, a spokeswoman for animal rights' group Direct Animal Action, said broilers' rapid growth over six weeks could lead to health issues.

"Their young bones struggle to hold up their heavy adult-size bodies and inside broiler chicken farms you'll typically see chickens with splayed legs, which means they either can't stand at all or if they do, they struggle to walk," she said.

"Ninety million broiler chickens are slaughtered in New Zealand every year, the largest number of all livestock killed, because of the number of chickens we eat.

However, the Tegel spokeswoman said it would be a free-range, state-of-the-art farm with best environment and animal welfare practices.

Dargaville Business Forum chairperson Jean Johnson said the broiler chicken farm would bring much-needed employment and financial benefits to the area.