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Agriculture

Yashili a major player in the Waikato

Tom O'Leary Dec 12
Yashili a major player in the Waikato
Prime dairy country - Pokeno is in the heart of the Waikato region.

Waikato District Council Mayor Allan Sanson has no doubt Yashili New Zealand’s contribution to the Waikato community has been significant in respect to employment, community support and investment in key infrastructure.

“I’ve been mayor for nine years now and Yashili approached the Waikato District Council about 12 months after that – so our relationship goes back a long way.”

Yashili had been in New Zealand for about three months looking for likely sites to build an infant formula plant and had considered the Bay of Plenty, lower North Island and Waikato.

Favouring the Waikato, developers acting on Yashli’s behalf approached Allan and a meeting was set up between the council and Yashili’s Board, travelling to New Zealand for the meeting.

After meeting the board on a couple of occasions, working through issues including the disposal of trade waste, the site was narrowed down to Pokeno, just south of the Bombay Hills.

Allan tells the story that after the second meeting, Yashili’s chairman, speaking through an interpreter, requested a ‘sidebar’ meeting in the mayoral office.

A small delegation followed, meeting with the Mayor and some of the Council team to talk about New Zealand’s dairy industry.

“One of the things that gave Yashili a lot of confidence in us being able to help them with what they were looking for was my background as a dairy farmer. “I understood the process, what they needed and what they were trying to do—for me it was just second nature.

“After an hour, the Chairman stood up – put his hand across the table and shook my hand – deal done.”And that was the start of what has been a very mutually beneficial and rewarding relationship be-tween the Waikato community, Council and Yashili New Zealand.

The Pokeno Land Consortium was just starting construction of houses near the village of Pokeno but the industrial side was still in its infancy.

Yashili New Zealand’s decision to build its infant formula plant in the large area set aside for industrial development provided the consortium, in retail terms, an anchor tenant attracting further development, including Synlait’s plant, sitting right next door to Yashili’s plant, and Hynds Concrete megaplant.

With wastewater and trade waste a key consideration, Yashili injected $6 million as its contribution to the critical infrastructure enabling waste to be piped back to the Tuakau plant owned by Water-care.

Allan says that renewing wastewater infrastructure was always going to happen but given the considerable cost, Waikato District Council was waiting for residential and industrial growth—Yashili accelerated the project, saving the Council considerable cost.

He says that having been part of the Waikato landscape since the plants development in 2015, Yashili has successfully integrated into the local community through employing local resource, utilising local trade services and businesses and actively looking for opportunities to help within the community.

“To the community and the council, Yashili has brought a willing and very strong partnership,” he says.  “Yashili’s integration into the community is incredibly positive.

“I go to many community meeting and there will invariably be someone from Yashili or someone who has a connection with Yashili at those meetings—they’re part of the family now.”

Reflecting on Yashili New Zealand’s contribution to ‘New Zealand Inc.’, the Mayor underlines that the dairy processor has taken a semi-finished product manufactured by other New Zealand dairy processing companies, added value and exported it “For New Zealand Inc. that is exactly what we have been wanting.”

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