Char­ity and the choco­late fac­tory: New Zealan­ders raise $2m to save in­dus­try

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

New Zealan­ders have do­nated $2m in just over 24 hours to keep the cen­tury-old tra­di­tion of choco­late-mak­ing alive in Dunedin.

Mon­dalez In­ter­na­tional an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary it planned to close its 80-year-old Dunedin Cad­bury fac­tory in 2018, putting 350 em­ploy­ees out of work and shift­ing pro­duc­tion to larger Aus­tralian plants.

Com­mu­nity group Save the Fac­tory at­tempted to buy the Cad­bury fac­tory for NZ$20m, but their bid failed.

Now, Save the Fac­tory has teamed up with bou­tique Dunedin choco­late pro­ducer Ocho to ex­pand their busi­ness, al­low­ing them to em­ploy more peo­ple – in­clud­ing for­mer Cad­bury’s work­ers – and keep the tra­di­tion of choco­late mak­ing alive in New Zealand’s old­est city.

The crowd­fund­ing page went live this week and in less than two days 3,500 peo­ple do­nated a com­bined $2m to the ex­pan­sion project, with the web­site crash­ing mul­ti­ple times be­cause of the huge in­ter­est.

Any­one who do­nated $100 will re­ceive one share in the new com­pany, as well as 20% off choco­late pro­duced there for their life­time. The av­er­age do­na­tion was NZ$700.

The $2m will al­low choco­late man­u­fac­tur­ing to con­tinue in Dunedin on an in­dus­trial scale, with New Zealand-made choco­late des­tined for ex­port. With­out Ocho’s ex­pan­sion, choco­late-mak­ing in the city would have dwin­dled to a hand­ful of en­thu­si­asts mak­ing tiny quan­ti­ties with min­i­mal em­ploy­ees.

Liz Rowe, owner of Ocho, said she had ex­pected the fundrais­ing ef­fort to take weeks, not days, and the groundswell of sup­port showed how im­por­tant choco­late and jobs were to the peo­ple of Dunedin.

“Sav­ing some of those jobs was a huge im­pe­tus, one of the val­ues of the new com­pany is to cre­ate as many jobs as pos­si­ble,” said Rowe.

“Dunedin is a re­gional cen­tre and there is a strong feel­ing in this com­mu­nity that we don’t want to see all these busi­nesses get bought up and shipped out and moved either fur­ther north or off­shore, there is a strong feel­ing to keep man­u­fac­tur­ing here, to keep jobs lo­cal.”

Ocho will be­gin ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion im­me­di­ately now it has se­cured ex­pan­sion fund­ing with plans to move to a big­ger fac­tory, im­port new equip­ment from Italy and ex­plore op­tions to ex­port the dis­tinctly New Zealand-flavoured choco­late, which fea­tures lo­cal in­gre­di­ents in­clud­ing kawakawa and horo­pito (na­tive pep­per trees), and manuka honey and bee pollen.

Ocho will grad­u­ally shift from pro­duc­ing 90kg of choco­late a week to 400-500kg a week by mid to late next year.

Lo­cal Dunedin coun­cil­lor and busi­ness­man Jim O’Mal­ley, who spear­headed the Save the Fac­tory cam­paign, said pledges came not only from Dunedin but all over New Zealand and the world.

The Cad­bury choco­late fac­tory in Dunedin, New Zealand, that is sched­uled to close in 2018. Pho­to­graph: Mark Baker/AP

Ocho’s Liz Rowe said she ex­pected the fundrais­ing to take weeks not days Pho­to­graph: Hay­den Par­sons/Otago Polytech­nic

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