Fonterra move creates Pahiatua jobs

By Amie Hickland

A huge expansion planned by dairy giant Fonterra in North Wairarapa would create 45 permanent jobs and hundreds more while work is being done on what could amount to a $250 million project.

The company plans to install a new drier at its Pahiatua plant, which would produce up to 85,000 metric tonnes of milk powder.

Pahiatua was chosen from several locations in the North Island.

The company will still have to apply for consent to both Tararua District Council and Horizons Regional Council to build the expansion but had gained initial support, according to site operations manager Bill Boakes.

It had also started consultation with the community, which had been well received.

Mr Boakes said one of the benefits of the new plant was the potential to re-use condensate from milk through the drying process.

The project also involves a wastewater treatment plant, as well as landscaping to help control noise.

"What we're hoping to achieve with the go-ahead is the most efficient plant in New Zealand," he said.

Mr Boakes said about 1.6 million litres of milk a day was moved by train from the Pahiatua factory to other sites to be processed. The new equipment would enable that work to stay in Pahiatua.

Most of the milk powder is exported overseas as there's a tiny New Zealand market for milk powder, Mr Boakes said.

There would be a local impact with the expectation of 45 new jobs being created.

Mr Boakes said if consent was granted, the company would not expect the plant to be up and running until 2015.

Fonterra has opened a similar-sized plant in Darfield, Canterbury, and Mr Boakes estimated the Pahiatua plant would create from 400 to 500 jobs in the short-term.

That number would include tradesmen and workers off-site. He estimated the cost to be from $200 million to $250 million.

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said his council was willing to work with Fonterra through the consent process. "It's extremely good news for Pahiatua and we like to think, with the number of jobs, people would want to move into the area," he said.

A public meeting about the project will be held at Bush Multi-Sports today at 7pm.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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