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Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell briefly stepped into politics earlier this month, taking the place of Prime Minister Bill English cutting the ribbon at the official opening of the Southern Dairy Hub.
Mr Horrell said it was a wonderful occasion to be opening the new dairy hub, with his unexpected elevation to acting Prime Minister coming a mere 10 minutes before the opening.
The hub was a testament to Southland's tenacity, determination and passion, he said.
''Southland is one of the power houses of the dairy industry.''
The road to the Southern Dairy Hub had been quite a journey of recent years, from rallying farmer and business support with $1.25 million being invested and principal investors DairyNZ and AgResearch investing $5 million each through to the work in converting the farm and putting in place the latest and greatest in technologies.
Southern Dairy Hub Limited Partnership chairman Maurice Hardie said it was a huge milestone officially opening the new hub.
As the lease was expiring on the Southland Demonstration Farm, the Southern Dairy Development Trust (SDDT) was asked what was going to be the next move, he said.
There were many discussions held and the group involved decided they needed
''But the thing we needed was support from people.''
That same group of people spent four years making it happen.
Mr Hardie and former SDDT chairman Matthew Richards presented their case to DairyNZ who offered them all of the resources they needed to investigate what the hub could look like.
''We then went to AgResearch and told them about what we wanted to do and delivered the business case.''
Both organisations then came on board, completing the ownership of the Southern Dairy Hub Limited Partnership with the SDDT.
The 349ha farm, near Wallacetown, was then purchased after much negotiations, Mr Hardie said.
The conversion started in November last year.
''Anyone that was here on the 1st of November will tell you it looks a little different [now].''
To date, $19.6 million had been spent on the project, with $26.5 million drafted in the original proposal, Mr Hardie said.
SDDT chairman Tony Miles, who has taken over as chair from Matthew Richards, said as southern dairy farmers, everyone had a stake in the success of the Southern Dairy Hub.
But none of it would have been possible without the work of former chair Mr Richards, who worked endlessly to make the hub a reality, he said.
AgResearch chairman Jeff Grant, who spoke in place of AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson, said what impressed the AgResearch team was Mr Hardie and Mr Richards' and the wider teams' attitude to making the dairy hub possible.
''This is about us having the ability to have scientists connect with those in the farming community.''
Having scientists and farmers being able to work together and engage with one another is as good as it gets, he said.
DairyNZ director Elaine Cook, who spoke on behalf of DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle, said the Southern Dairy Hub would create many opportunities for dairy in the future and DairyNZ was thrilled to be a part.
''We are always keen to partner with the farmers because with out farmers and regional investments we would not get things off the ground.''