A group of Maori organisations has partnered with Japanese food company Imanaka to develop a milk processing plant to make high-value niche products in the Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau.
Kawerau Dairy is a collaboration between 11 Maori entities, which own two thirds of the venture, and Imanaka's Cedenco Dairy unit, which owns the remaining third. They expect the first stage of the $32 million project to begin operations early next year.
The dairy venture is following the model of the Miraka milk company in Taupo.
"For Maori, it's about getting more experienced and becoming more involved," said project coordinator Richard Jones, who is chief executive of Kawerau Dairy shareholder Poutama.
Kawerau Dairy's product mix would be different to Miraka's and be complementary rather than competing, with both leveraging their cultural identity.
Stage one of the project involves the development of an 800kg/hour drier to process conventional cow milk and organic cow milk into high-value products.
Initially, it expects to produce milk protein concentrate 85 for use as an ingredient in health drinks and foodstuffs, as well as organic whole milk powder and skim milk powders.
The Organic Dairy Hub will supply milk to the plant and will help any of the 12 Maori shareholder farms convert to organics.
The second stage will the development of another drier to process goat and sheep milk.
The plant will be developed on land owned by Putauaki Trust with its principal energy supply sourced from Ngati Tuwharetoa-owned geothermal network. The venture is also exploring the use of additional solar energy for its plant and milk suppliers.
Kawerau Dairy will benefit from its Japanese shareholder's food processing experience, and Cedenco already owns vegetable processing and marine farming and mussel processing operations in New Zealand.
Mr Jones said Japan and the US would be Kawerau Dairy's initial key export markets.
The venture expects to create between 25 to 30 direct jobs initially and that related business opportunities will stoke further job growth.