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Update on #SaveKapitiCheese

Update on #SaveKapitiCheese

Media statement

28 September 2019

Update on #SaveKapitiCheese: Mayor K Gurunathan disrespects community effort to save cheese factory by calling effort "irrelevant"

The below statement has been posted as an update on the #SaveKapitiCheese petition on Change.org Kia ora everyone,

I just wanted to drop you a quick update to say we've had more than 1,300 people so far sign the petition to save Kāpiti cheese, which is an incredible result in just two days. It's relied purely on you all sharing this with your friends and families, and shows just how important the factory and the jobs it supports is to our community - so please keep up the good work and keep encouraging people to visit www.savekapiticheese.nz to add their names.

We've had plenty of local media coverage, as well as some national media coverage on both the Spinoff and Newshub. Kāpiti Cheese is one of New Zealand's most iconic and internationally recognised brands, and the idea that none of the cheese that's had a 35 year association with our district will be produced here anymore is eliciting a justifiably strong reaction from people.

The purpose of the petition is threefold - it's to send a clear signal to Fonterra that they should reconsider their decision, it's to show workers that the community is here to support them, and it's to demonstrate to any third parties who might be looking at taking over operations at the Te Roto Drive site and keeping cheese making, or a similar food business going there, that our community will be right behind them.

It's why I was disappointed to read today that our district's Mayor K Gurunathan described this petition as a pea-shooter and your signatures as "a mosquito on the backside of an elephant thinking it's relevant."

I think that type of attitude and comments from our Mayor towards the more than 1,300 people so far who have signed their names is hugely disrespectful both to your views and to our community who are wanting to fight to keep the cheese factory open and save as many of those local jobs as possible.

We might be small, but we can make our voices heard, and in doing so we can help save that factory. It's not dissimilar to what happened down in Dunedin when Cadbury closed the chocolate factory there, and the community rallied together to help support a new venture. While they weren't able to purchase Cadbury's site from the resulting crowdfunding effort, they were able to support a new chocolate maker to establish themselves in the city and provide local employment to some of those who lost their jobs.

I was also told when I set up the petition to oppose Victoria University of Wellington's proposed name change that it wouldn't work. Yet 13,000 signatures later, countless emails and phone calls, and the Minister of Education not only declined permission for the name change, but he cited the petition as a key reason why he didn't feel the university should be changing its name. That pressure eventually translated into the university backing down from the proposal too.

The petition isn't the only thing I've been working on in this space, and I've already initiated conversations with people in our local business community who are interested in keeping the factory operating in some capacity. It's very early days in what would be a complex process, but given the successful history of Kāpiti cheeses, I'm confident that a solution can be found over the next six months.

Which is why it's so important that you keep sharing this petition, keep encouraging people to sign, and keep getting the word out that we want to save Kāpiti cheese.

Ngā mihi,

Gwynn Compton

© Scoop Media

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