$70mil Waikato chicken hatchery employs locals

updated By Mānia Clarke

Waikato marae clusters Ngā Muka Development Trust and Waahi Whānui are backing the new American Cobb-Vantress $70mil chicken hatchery at Whangape near Huntly, which will supply to 10% of the world's markets. 

Ngā Muka Chair Glen Tupuhi says the plant has provided jobs for locals. 

"Our tribal interest is that quantum lift," says Tupuhi.

"We need more of our tribal people on high-level directorates and corporate level, but we also need to lift our people onto the employment ladder."

The build is 80% completed and employees have been sourced from Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Meremere, Taupiri and Ngāruawāhia.

"They are doing well, they have money which is positive for them and their future," says local kaumātua Pat Kingi.

"That's the attitude of some of those working there. They say they're doing well. That's good, get on with it."

The eggs are being imported from America and the hatched two-day chicks will be exported to Asia.

"New Zealand is known to be bird flu-free and it's known as clean green New Zealand," says Cobb-Vantress general manager, Jimmy Chand, "So exporting out of New Zealand into the Asian countries that we are targeting is quite good."

“If a bird flu bloom hit Asia we would still be able to supply the region with chickens,” says Tupuhi.

The farm sits on a 150-hectare site with construction work well underway.  Half of those employed are Māori. 

"We are at 49 staff in total.  Once we are 100% capacity we'll be 90 staff and as a minimum, we want to be about 75% local employment," says Chand.

"Right now we have 25 out of the 49 being Māori."

The farm is expected to be opened by King Tuheitia and Cobb-Vantress president Joel Sappenfield at the end of this month, followed by a pōwhiri and hākari at Horahora Marae.