THE vision of a group of southern farmers nearly five years ago has been realised, with the official opening of the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) last week.
“I would like to say [I am] relieved, but we are not quite there yet. We have to prove it works,” SDH chairman Maurice Hardie said.
“A year down the track and we will know we have got it right.”
Between 200 to 300 southern farmers and supporters attended the official opening on Friday at the site of the new multi-million-dollar demonstration farm/research development facility on a 349ha farm at Makarewa, 15km north of Invercargill.
AgResearch and DairyNZ had committed $5 million each towards the project, along with about $1.3m pledged from 550 dairy farmers and businesses in Southland and South Otago.
Mr Hardie said the development had cost $19.6m, but the SDH still had to buy shares in Fonterra within three years.
The initial aim was to raise $2m in financial support from southern dairy farmers, but the amount pledged had allowed the group to develop the business plan and “no corners had been cut” in the development of the facility, he said.
“[SDH] has all the bells and whistles the researchers wanted and needed.”
Southern Dairy Development Trust chairman Tony Miles said he wanted to acknowledge the support of the community in making the facility a reality, which was a contingency for AgResearch and DairyNZ coming on board.
“It has been a lot work by a lot of fantastic people, but we are here.”
AgResearch board chairman Jeff Grant said: “This is impressive in terms of the tenacity of
the trust and those dairy farmers who had the foresight to look at what’s in the best interests for Otago/Southland dairy farmers.
“[SDH] gives us the ability to provide the science… tools and the ability to know how to mitigate the risks that are in front of us as we move forward in terms of the industry.”
Mr Grant said the SDH model would enable scientists and farmers to work in an environment which was close to the commercial operation as possible.
“This is a fantastic delivery of a system that was conceived by a bunch of farmers, and I think it is a proud day for all of them.”