21 Apr 2011

Mayor welcomes rebuild of meat plant

7:38 pm on 21 April 2011

Matamata-Piako mayor Hugh Vercoe says plans to rebuild a meat processing plant destroyed by fire will provide a much-needed boost for the rural town of Te Aroha.

Silver Fern Farms says it will build a beef plant using the latest technology at Te Aroha, creating up to 300 jobs.

The old plant, which employed about 350 people, was destroyed by a fire in December last year when contractors who installed a vent left a heat source that set fire to the building.

Mr Vercoe says it would have been disastrous for the community if the plant was not rebuilt.

Meatworkers' union national secretary Dave Eastlake says the company did an excellent job re-employing people by putting on extra shifts at some Hawke's Bay plants.

He says the workers appreciated that, but will still be looking forward to getting back to work in their own area.

New plant will use latest technology

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper says a new plant has been designed in consultation with internationally recognised experts in process layout and ergonomics.

Mr Cooper says the company wants to build a world-class facility that is environmentally efficient and will represent a significant investment.

As well as the planned rebuild, Silver Fern Farms has bought Wallace Corporation's meat processing plant at Waitoa which processes about 100,000 cattle a year.

The sale will leave Wallace without a meat processing interests and the company says it will use the proceeds from the sale to invest in its core rendering and tanning operations at neighbouring Waitoa.

Wallace runs the country's biggest rendering plant, processing the discarded parts of animal carcasses from its own and other meat plants, as well as chicken factories.

It also collects and processes dead stock from farms around the North Island and tans cattle hides and calf skins.

Chief executive Graham Shortland says it is planning to spend several million dollars on environmental improvements to its waste-water treatment system and extracting new products from animal waste.

Mr Shortland says the company is exporting protein meals to Asia for stock feeds.