Fonterra’s new South Waikato plant opens

Normally a guest list of over 200 would fill a venue but that wasn’t so during the official opening of Fonterra’s multimillion dollar milk powder dryer in the South Waikato.

South Waikato mayor Jenny Shattock, Taupo MP Louise Upston, Raukawa representatives, farmers, Fonterra staff, and others from the community where like a dot in one of the Lichfield based plant’s massive rooms where they gathered on Friday to celebrate its opening.

The new 30 metric tonne an hour dryer, which has cost a staggering 390 million dollars to build, is capable of processing 4.4 million litres of milk a day making it the company’s most efficient dryer to date.

Fonterra chairman John Wilson said while Lichfield is one of Fonterra’s younger sites, over its 21 year history it has become one of the most significant for its ability to meet growing global demand for dairy.

“This new plant will help us to strike a balance in our processing that allows us to switch between products quickly to meet demand changes in global markets, push the pace on production when milk volumes dictate, and ultimately deliver the best product mix to generate returns,” he said.

Upston said it was an honour to take part in the opening.

“I am enormously proud, [this] is one of the most significant businesses in the whole of the Taupo electorate and I can’t think of any other investments to this extent,” she said.

“Not only does it benefit this district but it benefits Kiwis all over New Zealand.”

She said the development had resulted in more than 70 new full time jobs.

“[That’s] a really big deal for a district like this and I think that is one of the most exciting parts of this projects,” she said.

Shattock said something as significant as the development of the plant had not been seen in the district for a long time and she said the impact had been massive.

“I well remember [former mayor] Neil Sinclair told me about the possibility of a multimillion dollar driver being built in Lichfield and I couldn’t comprehend what a 390 million dollar dryer plant was, I had no idea, but I look at it now and it is absolutely magnificent,” she said.

She knowledged Fonterra for its foresight in choosing the South Waikato to invest.

“They recognised the importance of dairy farming in our district, they recognised our dairy farmers, and they recognised our central position,” she said.

“It is due to the leadership shown by Fonterra investing in our district and recognising our strengths that has actually sparked other industries to follow suit and look to the South Waikato for growth and new developments.”

Fonterra’s chief operating officer of global operations Robert Spurway said the dryer was also supported by a new distribution centre, service and a sophisticated wastewater treatment plant.

“A new biological wastewater treatment plant ensures that we’re able to treat any wastewater before it is irrigated to land near the site – the most environmentally sustainable solution,” he said.

“The new distribution centre has the capacity to store 40,000 metric tonnes of whole milk powder which is then loaded into containers and shipped directly to port via an in-built rail siding.

“This removes up to 40 truck movements from the site every day which will not only free up local roads but also reduces our carbon emissions.”

Text by Luke Kirkeby / Retrieved from Stuff