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Westland Milk Products Celebrates 75 years


Westland Milk Products Celebrates 75 years

New Zealand’s second biggest dairy cooperative, Westland Milk Products, this week celebrates 75 years of being an indomitable ‘David’ in the ‘Goliath’ that is New Zealand’s dairy industry.

The Hokitika-based company, which also has an office and plant in Rolleston, will not only be looking to its colourful past this week, but also celebrating its future as a highly successful independent, award-winning dairy co-operative.

Dairy farming has been present on the West Coast for almost 150 years with the Hokitika Dairy Company formed in 1868. Other, often quite localised, dairy co-operatives followed. Westland Cool Storage and Dairy Company Ltd, Kokatahi Co-operative and Waitaha Co-operative formed the nucleus of the Westland Co-operative Dairy Company in 1937. Other Coast dairy companies folded or joined over the ensuing years, the latest being Karamea which joined the Westland Co-operative in 1987.

Even bigger change was to come in 2001 when the Dairy Board was broken up, its monopoly on exports dissolved and its assets distributed to the industry. Competition among dairy interests ensued. Coast dairy farmers voted emphatically to form their own independent co-operative, to be in control of their own destiny, allowing continued growth in dairy farming and processing on the West Coast.

“Since then,” says Chief Executive Rod Quin, “Westland Milk Products has more than held its own in the dairy world. We have grown, expanded into Canterbury, developed new products and found new markets, especially in China and South East Asia, where the potential for growth is enormous.”

The jubilee is not only a celebration of a company; it is a celebration of people. The fiercely independent and pioneering spirit of Coasters is still alive and well in Westland Milk Products.

“Our success has been driven by the inspiration and adaptability of our farmer shareholders, who willingly stepped into the independent company arena and embraced new technology, on farm and in the factory,” says Westland Board of Directors Chair Matt O’Regan.

“As a united co-operative we have surrounded ourselves with practical and passionate people who are committed to the same principles that applied 75 years ago and which remain our foundation.”

O’Regan points to Westland’s world-class manufacturing plant in Hokitika and the company’s annual turnover of some $525 million.

“We are often billed as a David to the Goliath that is the dominant force in the New Zealand dairy industry. In a way it is an apt metaphor, but it’s also worth remembering that by New Zealand standards we are pretty big in our own right. We might be a smaller player on the New Zealand dairy scene but, nationally we are in the top 100 New Zealand businesses by turnover, and we market to more than 70 customers in more than 40 different countries around the world.”

Expansion into Canterbury in search of more suppliers to feed the company’s continued growth has been its more recent landmark, but Westland Milk Products remains staunchly in the heart of the Coast and firmly committed to Hokitika.

“We are Coast-formed, and the imagery, quality of production, and the culture of the Coast is at our heart. That, as much as anything else, is what we’ll be celebrating in jubilee week,” O’Regan says.


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