Hand-cleaned garden rocks and gleaming steel welcomed Prime Minister John Key to the opening a flash "tin shed" to kick off his visit to the Waikato.

Hand-cleaned garden rocks and gleaming steel welcomed Prime Minister John Key to the opening a flash "tin shed" to kick off his visit to the Waikato.


Waikato Milking Systems opened their $13 million global headquarters at the Northgate Industrial Park just north of Hamilton where staff had spent days preparing for the big day.


WMS chief executive Dean Bell it was the first time the company had all operations on the same site and their effort was a part of the company's new direction.


A large crowd gathered for the opening.


"That's why we designed and built this tin shed, with a goal of bringing all of our New Zealand-based employees together and unlocking the potential of every employee who works here," said Bell.


Key said New Zealand's success in dairy was based on technology driven business on display during his tour.


"Anyone can milk a cow, anyone can own a few cows," said Key. "It's a very different issue to get the level of production and productivity that we have."


The industry had gone through "tumultuous times" but China's new 2-child policy and the TPP would see better long-term conditions.


"It is a deal that involves 40 per cent of the global economy, we get a 93 per cent reduction and elimination in tariffs."


The free trade agreement with China was worth $115m in tariff reductions and around $1b in benefits.


"TPP is worth $259m and $3b," he said. "So it's about  2.5 times the China FTA."


He said it wasn't all about milk powder and baby formula.


"It's often about products like what is produced here," said Key.


Prior to moving to the Horotiu site, the business was divided between Hamilton and Matamata with a head office in the US and branch offices in Australia and the UK.


"It's really about getting all of our engineering and manufacturing divisions together so we can share our resource better, we can share our intelligence and share design horsepower," said Bell.


The 9000m2 factory was built on 1.6 hectares of land and employed 110 staff.


"We have our rotary platforms division, we have our Centrus composite division which is our award winning products, we have our stainless steel division and we also have our electrical components."


"We 're only really beginning now to understand how to build the capability and unlock the potential of our staff," he said. 


The New Zealand-owned company was bought by Ngai Tahu Capital, Pioneer Capital and Tainui Group Holdings (TGH) in 2014.


TGH chief executive Chris Joblin said the company was meeting its growth strategy.


"It was one of the first investments under our diversification strategy and the business is going from strength to strength," said Joblin.


"We're seeing good strong demand for their products, especially in offshore markets."


Yashili were set to open their Pokeno-based infant formula factory later in the day and Waikato District mayor Allan Sanson said it was a boon for his area.


"Both these openings today are a part of the dairy industry so it shows how big a part it is in the local economy," said Sanson.


"It's exactly what this country needs, more product going out."


Elton Smallman

 - Stuff


Image: John Key opens Waikato Milking Systems' new building in Te Rapa on Friday.

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