Dairy plant conversion seen as catalyst for burgeoning food technology hub
Plans to establish a state-of-the-art food technology and production hub in the small North Waikato township of Kerepehi have moved another step closer – with several large blocks of bare land with development potential being placed on the market for sale.
The 16 sites are immediately opposite the former Kerepehi dairy factory which was bought earlier this year by the Chinese-owned Allied Faxi Food Company for conversion into an ice cream export manufacturing plant.
Conversion construction of the dairy plant is scheduled to start in spring, with the plant targeted to be fully operational by the end of 2015 – forecasting to produce 10 tonnes of ice cream and 10 tonnes of frozen cream daily. All output is for the Chinese markets.
With the Chinese ice cream factory now an anchor company in the township, Hauraki District Council is using the plant as an impetus for promoting Kerepehi as a cutting-edge food technology and production hub to be known as Hauraki Park. The planned hub is located just a few hundred metres from State Highway 2.
Hauraki District Council mayor John Tregidga said the decision to establish Kerepehi as the heart of the North Island’s dairy-based food technology sector was made after considerable research was undertaken on the potential economic benefits of such an initiative.
“Our council believes in thinking differently - we wish to partner with food-based companies to establish in Hauraki Park, and we’re keen to talk to both established companies and ‘start ups’ too,” Mr Tregidga said.
“The council has approved a resource consent application and design for a waste water treatment plant to process waste water from food processing businesses.”
The council has already invested $9 million upgrading Kerepehi’s water treatment plant to accommodate the forecast industrial growth and existing farms.
“Understanding that industry requires high volumes of potable water, the council has recently upgraded its potable water capacity at Kerepehi so we can supply a town the size of Palmerston North,” explained Mr Tregidga.
“New Zealand Trade & Enterprise is also supporting the council to attract investors and food businesses with an eye to exporting food to overseas markets,” Mr Tregidga said.
Whakatu Coldstores Limited is also adjacent to the Hauraki Park and manages a cold store with capacity for 12,500 pallets at -24 degrees Celsius. The cold store has the highest possible cold store rating available through the Ministry of Primary Industries.
“Having the coldstores available in Kerepehi offers food-based companies tremendous savings in storage and distribution,” said Mr Tregidga.
The 16 ‘greenfield’ – or bare land – sites being offered as potential new locations for food-based businesses range in size from 2020 square metres up to 12,392 square metres and are being marketed by Bayleys Waikato. All sites are flat contoured, with roading in place and sewage, power and telecommunications lines laid to boundaries.
The mayor led an economic development delegation from Hauraki District Council to China and Taiwan on a two-week mission earlier in the year to promote the Kerepehi food technology hub.
Bayleys Waikato commercial salesperson Josh Smith was confident the Hauraki District Council’s strategic initiative to attract food technology businesses to the area would be positively viewed by potential new tenants looking to establish premises in Hauraki Park.
“We work very closely with council’s economic development department, and they really understand what business needs to operate - utilising a team of specialists ready to assist,” said Mr Smith.
“As a new ‘start-up’ location in a small rural environment, the anticipated per square metre rates for these 16 sites are considerably lower than Auckland or Hamilton.
“Kerepehi has direct state highway access to two ports – Tauranga and Auckland – effectively enabling any business in the town to make best use of trade conditions at either destination.
“And the township is surrounded by the primary productive land which will be supplying much of the dairy product required not only by the dairy factory when it comes back on line, but also for any of the potential new dairy -based businesses coming into the hub.”
Mr Smith said labour for any new business setting up in Kerepehi could be accommodated in the surrounding townships of Thames, Paeroa or Ngatea which were all within easy commuting distances.