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New Zealand Dairy Collaborative Ltd general manager Brad Harden in the milk powder canning room.

By Toni Williams

New Zealand Dairy Collaborative Ltd is looking for staff for its new milk-powder canning plant in Ashburton.

The plant, in its final weeks of construction and set up, has been years in development and expected to tap into overseas export markets.

The addition of 21 new team members, including senior supply chain, quality, operations manager and can-line technicians, will add to an existing skeleton crew, which includes director Angus McKay, general manager Brad Harden and some part time administration staff.

Mr Harden said the infant formula dry-blend facility was a versatile plant, capable of blending bovine, goat or sheep milk powder.

It will source standard base milk powder from major manufacturers in New Zealand, such as Fonterra, Synlait Milk or Westland Milk, and blend infant formula, as approved to Ministry for Primary Industries standards.

This would include their own Carimax brand, under the manufacturer name Orbalife Dairy Ltd, or provide the blending and canning operation for other companies.

Tightened regulations in China last year meant there was extra volume in the industry for exports to China – however that also meant more audits.

There had already been other countries who had expressed interest and could come on stream before Chinese markets opened.

“It’s really exciting to get to this stage. It’s been a challenge to get us to this point…but it’s really close now.”

Within 14 months of operation, the plant will be capable of processing 220,000 cans of the 900g sized tins of infant formula a month.

They were working to a December 6 deadline to get the canning area contained to meet national hygiene standards.

After that date people entering the area, past the red line zone, will need to be fully gowned with protective clothing, which includes hooded coveralls, balaclava and gloves.

The plant is using a Swiss, Indosa canning and seaming plant, with “local blender equipment”.

The plant will also offer tourism opportunities – and visits from school groups – to see how process works with parking allocated for tour buses, presentation rooms and a viewing gallery looking directly into the canning operation.

“It’s the heart of where everything is,” Mr Harden said, of the canning room.

“It means people are metres away from the processing operation.”

Mr Harden, of Staveley, has been with the Ashburton-based dairy collaborative for the past 15 months.

He was formerly at Synlait Milk, south of Dunsandel, where he was nutritional brand manager.

He was at Synlait Milk for 10 years.

The company was advertising through a recruitment agency via online platforms.