Silver Fern Farms will increase capacity at three plants after a fire at a facility in Te Aroha

Silver Fern Farms will increase capacity at three plants after a fire at a facility in Te Aroha

New Zealand meat processor Silver Fern Farms is to increase capacity at three plants after a fire wrecked a facility in Te Aroha on Friday (3 December).

A blaze late on Friday night "significantly damaged" Silver Fern's Te Aroha plant on New Zealand's North Island, 140km south-east of Auckland.

No staff were injured and no livestock were affected but Silver Fern chief executive Keith Cooper yesterday met with workers from the Te Aroha site to detail the meat group's plans to rejig production.

Cooper said Silver Fern would up capacity at its Dargaville, Hawera and Pacific sites - the latter of which will take on 190 staff from the Te Aroha facility.

"We value our skilled and dedicated people at the plant and know they need certainty about income for their families – especially three weeks out from Christmas," Cooper said. "They are employed under seasonal contracts, which means that if work is not available, they are seasonally 'laid off'. However we are sensitive to the situation and, in addition to paying all staff their normal weekly earnings as if they had worked this week, we will also pay them the minimum wage up until Christmas." 

Cooper added: "Furthermore, we are offering 190 positions at our Pacific plant in Hastings, on full pay plus an accommodation allowance. We believe this will create a positive opportunity for the majority of our Te Aroha people."

The cause of the fire at the Te Aroha site is yet to be confirmed, although a statement from Silver Fern read: "Provisionally it appears it may relate to external contractors leaving a residual heat source, which ignited some time after work was complete. It is clear there was no neglect by the company, nor any Silver Fern Farms employees."