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Fonterra's annual Best Site Cup awards are still "the Oscars of manufacturing," even when they're being conducted virtually, says the co-op's Chief Operating Officer Fraser Whineray.

The Best Site Cup awards is now in its 14th year. The event celebrates the commitment and dedication of Fonterra's manufacturing sites around New Zealand with a variety of different categories.

"They are very keen on these awards and there's a lot of silverware at stake" Whineray told The Country Sport Breakfast's Lee Piper.

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Although this year's awards were virtual due to Covid-19 restrictions, they were still "fantastic" Whineray said.

"We have very passionate teams throughout manufacturing covering labs, transport, distribution and of course, the processing as well.

All 33 Fonterra sites dialled in from across New Zealand for the virtual awards and although Whineray admitted it was a bit trickier to run, that didn't dampen the excitement of the event.

Listen below:

"The passion on the call was pretty high."

There were 14 titles up for grabs with Pahiatua taking out the Sustainability award for reducing water, energy and waste, Whineray said.

"They've reduced their water use by more than half a million litres a day and they've recently invested in a big waste water treatment plant, so that was great."

Other highlights included an award for Fonterra's trucking depot in Reporoa for fuel efficiency, and the Best Big Site award, which went to Darfield for high-quality production.

Te Rapa took out the Transformation award for improvements in a variety of areas including employee engagement, health and safety and product quality.

Meanwhile Fonterra's Kauri site was recognised for Health and Safety, which was a great achievement considering the Northland site had been dealing with droughts and floods, Whineray said.

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Also in today's interview: Whineray talked about a busy calving season and encouraged people to consider a career in the dairy industry.