Cheese fac­tory turns to UHT milk

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By AN­DREA FOX

Wa­haroa-based ar­ti­san cheese­maker Kaimai has given up its long strug­gle to stay in busi­ness, call­ing in a liq­uida­tor and sell­ing its as­sets to a com­pany which plans to make long-life milk for ex­port.

Ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and cofounder Wy­att Creech said it had proved ‘‘im­pos­si­ble’’ to make the ven­ture work be­cause of high milk prices and tighter con­sumer spend­ing.

But he de­nied the killing blow for the com­pany, which had dozens of small share­hold­ers, was the board’s de­ci­sion to buy the Te Mata Cheese com­pany in 2010.

Creech said all cred­i­tors had been paid, and share­hold­ers were ex­pected to get some level of re­turn when the com­pany was wound up.

Pure­land Dairy, buyer of the cheese com­pany’s Wa­haroa site and as­sets has kept the Kaimai Cheese cafe and del­i­catessen op­er­at­ing, and is ap­ply­ing for con­sents and per­mits to con­vert the plant to pro­duce UHT milk for ex­port.

It would be the Waikato’s fourth new dairy plant in short or­der.

Chi­nese dairy com­pany Yashili is build­ing an ex­port plant at Po­keno, Fon­terra has a UHT pro- duc­tion plant go­ing up in Waitoa, and the Mi­raka dairy com­pany is build­ing a UHT plant near Taupo.

Pure­land Dairy has reg­is­tered the com­pany name Kaimai Cheese, and re­tained most of the staff at the re­tail out­let, along with the cheese­maker, said chief ex­ec­u­tive, share­holder and di­rec­tor Ji­ahui Miao.

The new ven­ture is pro­duc­ing small quan­ti­ties of cheese and but­ter, he said.

Miao said if the UHT plant plan gets the green light, he ex­pected it to cre­ate jobs for up to 50 peo­ple.

He said the new com­pany’s par­ent op­er­ated out of Sin­ga­pore and Canada. The de­ci­sion of Creech and his board of di­rec­tors to wind up the five- year- old cheese­maker comes de­spite an 11th hour re­struc­ture, and Wal­lace Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man Sir James Wal­lace’s white knight en­trance late last year with a $250,000 cash in­jec­tion.

A spokesman for Sir James at the time said his in­vest­ment was a per­sonal one, af­ter a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Kaimai di­rec­tor and share­holder John Lux­ton.

Creech and Lux­ton are for­mer Na­tional Party Cab­i­net min­is­ters.

The com­pany at the time told share­hold­ers Sir James would be­come a cor­ner­stone share­holder and the new cap­i­tal would ad­dress the com­pany’s im­me­di­ate cash short­fall as it worked through the re­struc­ture.

Just be­fore di­rec­tors had told a spe­cial share­hold­ers meet­ing the com­pany needed $450,000 in cash to ad­dress its debt prob­lem and to pro­vide ad­e­quate work­ing cap­i­tal.

It was ex­pected that when the re­struc­ture was com­plete, the only debt would be bank debt of just over $2.5 mil­lion.

In De­cem­ber 2011 the com­pany said it was putting the Wa­haroa site on the block in a bid to stave off re­ceiver­ship.

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