Cement plant may go ahead, eventually

Ken Cowie.
Ken Cowie.
A new $100 million investment at the Port of Timaru announced yesterday may yet mean a new cement factory being built in North Otago.

After it announced in August that it would stop making cement in New Zealand and instead build two new import terminals, Holcim New Zealand Ltd yesterday announced Timaru as its preferred South Island location.

Holcim capital projects manager Ken Cowie said one of the reasons Timaru was favoured over Port of Otago, Lyttelton or Nelson, all of which were also in the running, was the possibility of ''eventually'' building an estimated $400 million cement plant near Weston.

A decision on whether to go ahead with the development, which would have employed 140 people and another 170 people indirectly, had been delayed constantly since the Environment Court approved resource consent for the dry-process plant in Weston-Ngapara Rd in 2009.

Mr Cowie said the project was still on hold ''for the foreseeable future', but an import terminal at Timaru was ''consistent'' with eventually pursuing that option.

''It is a contributing element for Timaru, but it wasn't the primary reason.

"There were a number of reasons why we selected Timaru and one of them was the potential opportunity for us to use that if the Weston project ever did take off.''

Timaru provided effective access to Christchurch and the South Island, he said.

Building an import terminal at Timaru and a second one at Waitemata was part of a $100 million investment programme that would allow Holcim to import and distribute bulk cement.

A total of 120 jobs would go at the company's cement plant in Westport once both terminals were operating, in the next two to three years.

Mr Cowie said a timetable would be set for the Westport closure once the two new terminals were operational.

Construction of the terminals would begin in 2014, subject to confirming the deals with the preferred ports.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he and the Waitaki District Council were ''very pleased'' to see Timaru as the preferred option.

''One of the things we have been waiting and watching for is where they located any possible South Island terminal. It was always the basis that we felt, that providing they chose Timaru, it was always a positive for the possibilities around Weston.

''It just keeps the option alive.''


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