Great boost for Dunedin

Milmeq project engineer Paul Black works on a piece of meat industry processing equipment in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Milmeq project engineer Paul Black works on a piece of meat industry processing equipment in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
''A great story'' for Dunedin's manufacturing sector is how Milmeq chief executive Mike Lightfoot describes the awarding of an $A18 million ($NZ21.7 million) contract to provide processing technology to a new beef plant in Australia's Northern Territory.

The company, which manufactures in both Dunedin and Auckland, will provide the $90 million Livingstone Valley facility, being built by the Australian Agricultural Company about 50km from Darwin, with all its processing equipment.

That includes boning and slaughtering processing equipment, refrigeration, air conditioning and chilling and freezing systems, along with operations for materials-handling and palletising.

Work would begin on the site next month, with the plant scheduled for completion in mid to late 2014.

The equipment would be manufactured in New Zealand and then a team of about 12 to 15, comprising staff from both Auckland and Dunedin, would work on-site for ''how ever many months it takes to assemble'', Mr Lightfoot, who is based in the company's Auckland head office, said.

It had taken a ''huge amount'' of work to win the contract, which was the biggest the company had acquired. At the moment, about 70% of the company's work came from Australia.

Founded in 1924, the Australian Agricultural Company was the oldest operating company in Australia, running more than 600,000 head of cattle across 7.2 million ha. The new facility would be capable of processing 220,000 cattle a year, ending a need to truck stock long distances to eastern and southern plants.

The technology would put the facility ''among the world's leaders'' in moving to highly technological processes, which the company had developed in New Zealand, Mr Lightfoot said.

''We are really proud of winning this contract. It confirms Milmeq's leadership in top-end technology. We also see it as a win for the New Zealand technology and manufacturing sector in a competitive global market,'' he said.

Milmeq custom-designs, engineers and manufactures systems for primary food-processing, materials-handling, chilling and freezing within the protein industry.

The company was established in Dunedin and it began operations in 1952 as Refrigeration Engineering.

It was established as a result of New Zealand's primary produce markets requiring a focus on refrigeration engineering to help make their products available to the global market.

The primary food-processing side of manufacturing was now done in Dunedin, where staffing numbers in the 40s were employed in the manufacturing division, with total staff in the city of more than 70.

Dunedin had been through a ''tough time'' and to pick up such a contract was ''just fantastic'' for the city. It remained ''a big part'' of the company's business. Mr Lightfoot said.

''It's a great story for Dunedin from a manufacturing point of view,'' Mr Lightfoot said. He joined the company last December, having previously been chief executive at Buckley Systems Ltd.

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