Kaikoura Star - Tourism to pick up where Fonterra factory closure left off

Columns
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fonterra recently announced that it plans to introduce a market-linked organic milk price for its organic milk farmers.

Organic dairy, in particular milk powder products, is a fast-growing market, not just in New Zealand but globally, as demand for organic milk products outstrips supply.

Since Fonterra's announcement of the closure of the Kaikoura cheese factory, there has been some discussion around the idea of taking over the factory on a local level for organic dairy production, or even to produce sheep's milk.

Local company Kaikoura Cheese has already proven that there is enough demand to support small, locally based cheese production in a rural area that is celebrated for its natural surroundings and already has a large pre-existing visitor base.

Owner Daniel Jenkins told Radio NZ this week that rural towns are at the forefront of creativity and opportunities, something he and wife Sarah have proven to be true.

In less than five years, and with only three goats to start with, Kaikoura Cheese has won a number of awards and caught the attention of respected cheese connoisseurs for their soft, handmade cheeses made with milk from their own goats as well as cows' milk from a local farm.

Fonterra's cheese factory also produced a small amount of specialty cheese and potentially poses a number of great opportunities for Kaikoura.

However, keeping it open will mean spending a significant amount of money on it first.

Unfortunately, this necessary spend meant keeping the plant was not a financially viable option for Fonterra, particularly when compared to the other plants where the cheese will now be made. At these plants, in Lichfield, Clandeboye, Stirling and Whareroa, cheese production is up to 16 percent more cost-effective than in Kaikoura.

Like any business, Fonterra has to make commercially sound decisions.

Fonterra has a responsibility to its farmer shareholders and unit holders, particularly during a time when milk prices are low. That, of course, includes farmers in Kaikoura.

It must also be said that while the cheese factory closure is absolutely a disappointment for Kaikoura, the local economy has a number of other great things going for it. The greatest of these things is, of course, tourism.

Kaikoura mayor Winston Gray was recently quoted as saying the economy is buoyant thanks to tourism.

The statistics show this to be true. In December last year, 17 per cent more tourists visited than in December 2014.

Nationally, the number of visitors from China, in particular, are projected to go up and no doubt Kaikoura will benefit from this increase.

Kaikoura is a town that has shown in the past what it can achieve when it bands together as a community. The recently opened state-of-the-art Kaikoura Integrated Health Centre is a great example.

I am in no doubt that Kaikoura will once again prove its resilience.

As always, I will continue to support Kaikoura in my role as MP and welcome anyone who wants to discuss what is happening in our electorate to contact me.