The following is an extract from the Whakatane Beacon dated 24th July 2015, detailing the opening of the Putauaki Dairy Farm:
'Trust unveils new $1.5m cowshed'
An irrigation consent has enabled Putauaki Trust to convert its drystock property at Kawerau into a 650-cow dairy farm. The trust unveiled its new $1.5 million cowshed on Wednesday, just in time for the 2015-2016 season. The trust previously ran beef cattle on the farm, opposite the Kawerau mill site.
Trust General Manager John O'Brien said shed construction began seven months ago but preparations for the conversion started a year before that with the drilling of a new water bore. He said the water was of sufficient quality and quantity for Bay of Plenty Regional Council to grant consent to irrigate 140 hectres of the 240ha farm. The centrepiece of the venture is a new 54-cow rotary cowshed, which will milk the 650 cows the trust has bought for the 2015-16 season.
It was officially opened on Wednesday by trustees Tiaki Hunia, Anaru Rangiheuea, Waaka Vercoe, Charles Elliott, Kiriwaitangi Rei and Eric Titi Eruera. After Mr O'Brien began proceedings Rangitukehu Paul blessed the shed with a karakia. A waiata followed, then Mr Vercoe spoke. The afternoon event drew 80 people, including contractors who worked on the project, community members, Te Teko school children, shareholders and Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell.
Mr O'Brien said the trust ensured it employed contractors from Kawerau, Edgecumbe and Whakatane for the build. The infrastructure and dairy shed cost $1.5 million, but he would not disclose the overall conversion cost, which included irrigation, Fonterra shares and livestock.
AgFirst consultant Peter Livingston said a DeLaval milking system, equipped with a considerable amount of automation, was installed in the shed. The farm would employ three full-time staff and casual workers, but as production increased another full-time staff member could be employed, he said. Mr Livingston said the 240ha farm comprised of trust-owned land and leased blocks, but there was still scope to extend the area by another 60 hectares.
"We will run 650 cows in the first year, but aim to increase to 850 by year three," he said.
The block was previously used for beef farming, cropping and dairy support for the trust's Himiona dairy farm, between Te Teko and Edgecumbe. He said the trust had always wanted to use the farm for dairying but the land was too dry. The irrigation consent made the conversion viable.
The farm was working closely with AgResearch to develop different crops and grasses suitable for the climate and soil.
Mr Livingston said the current milk price meant things were difficult, but that the operation "would soldier on". He said Putauaki Trust considered farm development a long-term investment.
"The trust thinks in terms of 50 to 100 years and long-term profit outlook is looking good," he said.
After the opening, the school children planted shrubs and trees near the cow-shed.