By John Keast
The New Zealand Dairy Collaborative canning plant at the Ashburton Business Park should be blending and canning dairy goat infant formula product by mid November and the workforce may grow to 80.
The governor of Shaanxi Province in China, Jiang Feng, cut the ribbon on Friday to mark the completion of the big plant, which will blend powder for a variety of products.
It was also attended by David Zhang, the chief executive of Fineboon, the major shareholder in the New Zealand Dairy Collaborative, and New Zealand investors.
Mr Feng said he was impressed with Ashburton and there was great progress in the relationship between China and New Zealand.
He said the setting up of the plant and the relationship could lead to opportunities in business and education, and both sides – Ashburton and Shaanxi – could explore opportunities.
Mr Feng said he wanted production to take off and the friendship to grow.
Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew, in one of her last duties as an MP before retiring, said New Zealand, with its relatively small population and largish land size, welcomed investment, and the investment would help grow the region and could lead to more diversity for Mid Canterbury farmers. [Several are planning to run dairy goats].
Mrs Goodhew – who said she was once bitten on the nose while opening a goat farm – said the new plant would help the district.
Ashburton mayor Donna Favel said Ashburton had 33,000 people and Shaanxi had 38 million “but we are friends”.
She said Ashburton was known as the co-operative capital of New Zealand and it was easy to be that with fine businesses such as the New Zealand Dairy Collaborative.
She said the council had more land if it was needed.
All of the product for the plant will come from New Zealand, and most from the Waikato.
Andy Macbeth, who runs Greenzoo infant formula with business partner Charlotte Rebbeck, said it had formed a close relationship with NZDF and its products would be canned there.
Mr Macbeth said Greenzoo was a key brand in China, a country which sought bona fide New Zealand brands.
He said it was seeking to develop a dairy goat product to market alongside its cow milk product.
Its product was canned now in the Waikato but under new Chinese protocols only three products could be put together in one plant, hence the switch to Ashburton.