6 Mar 2017

Oamaru on track to be the next big cheese

6:35 pm on 6 March 2017

Oamaru's manufacturing industry is expanding, with one chief executive saying people have been asking for jobs there from as far away as Tauranga.

Whitestone Cheese last week announced it would be building a new plant next to its Humber Street factory, and planned to double its capacity within five years.

Sweet maker Rainbow Confectionery was reportedly spending $3 million to triple production and might have jobs for some of the more than 360 workers from the Dunedin Cadbury factory, which is now slated for closure.

Property values in the Waitaki District also climbed 10 percent in the past year, according to QV.

China's largest international property website, Juwai.com, said Oamaru had been its fourth-most viewed place in New Zealand last year, putting it ahead of Wellington.

Whitestone chief executive Simon Berry said the expansion was expected to create more jobs, though exactly how many was uncertain.

Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry on site at the factory expansion in Oamaru.

Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry on site at the factory expansion in Oamaru. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

The new plant would include a tourist gantry, double the space for producing blue and white cheeses, and add extra storage areas.

Mr Berry said he also hoped to offer jobs to any Cadbury chocolate workers who wanted one.

Mr Berry said manufacturing firms in the Oamaru were enjoying renewed growth and he believed there were jobs to go around.

"I think all manufacturers are expanding. We've got the freezing works as well and they've been investing in their plant for the long-term game also.

Whitestone Cheese wheels in storage.

Whitestone Cheese wheels in storage Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

"The jobs are there and they'll continue to grow as manufacturing grows."

The town's mayor, Gary Kircher, said Oamaru was booming, defying official projections the town would go backwards.

"The annual adjustment certainly shows small increases," he said.

Waitaki district mayor Gary Kircher

Waitaki district mayor Gary Kircher Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

"Which is certainly a lot better than the decline which had been predicted within the last couple of decades but just isn't happening because we've got all these things going on which means that the population is growing slowly but steadily."

Mr Kircher said people were moving to Oamaru from all around New Zealand.

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