Aaron Chudleigh says Talley’s values the important role its Fairton-based operation has in Ashburton’s community, as a logistics location, and a good neighbour.
Chudleigh, Talley’s General Manager – Fairfield, Farming & Freight, says the company took over the former Silver Fern Farms 33-hectare site in Fairton in late 2020, seeing its regional potential.
“We knew the Fairton site well, as it was close to our existing Ashburton vegetable production plant, and we were already leasing the Silver Fern Farms cold stores for our vegetables. We are still using these cold stores today.
“Because of its location, quite soon after purchasing the site, we decided to relocate our transport, and farming divisions there, following an office refurbishment. Having the farming team of xx, freight team and the trucks on the new site, has really eased the space pressure from the Ashburton vegetable plant.
Chudleigh says, once the farming and freight teams were settled at Fairton, management could start evaluating how the site was best placed to serve the Ashburton community – the first project being the rail siding.
Improving Ashburton’s rail access
The Fairton site has a strategically placed rail siding, and Chudleigh says how to utilise it was a key project in 2021.
“We knew the position of the rail siding was an important opportunity for the region. After a lot of work through the year, we are really pleased that the site is now going to host the Fairfield Freight Hub, with construction due to start later this year.”
The hub project is a joint initiative with the Ashburton District Council, Fairfield Freight Hub Ltd (part of local freight business the Wareing Group) and KiwiRail.
KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says the hub will have multiple benefits.
“This project is a win-win for everyone involved. Not only will it improve safety and remove congestion from central Ashburton, it is supporting businesses and exporters to transport their products to where they need to be. Moving more freight by rail will also reduce transport emissions and lower road maintenance costs by removing the need for around 40,000 truck movements a year.”
Ashburton District Mayor Neil Brown adds that the project is “exciting news for our district, and a great example of people working together. The Ashburton community will be pleased and it will make a big difference to our town.”
Wareing Group will operate the Fairfield Freight Hub. Director Mark Wareing says the project has numerous benefits for the region.
“It’s setting the region up for a lower carbon future and the location near the North Park Industrial Park is ideally located to take advantage of the new hub,” Mr Wareing says. “Helping exporters and freight partners move more freight by rail makes sense both from a business and sustainability perspective and will help stabilise the supply chain issues our clients and their customers are facing.”
Chudleigh says that after evaluating all the buildings on the site, those that were unable to be upgraded to make them safe and compliant, have been, or will be, taken down.
For example, out of the 10 houses on the site, four unrepairable houses were donated to Fire and Emergency NZ to use in exercises, with approximately 40 fire fighters taking part, including local volunteer firefighters. Meanwhile, three of six brick houses were able to be repaired and have been renovated to the Healthy Homes Standards, for use by Talley’s workers as needed.
Acknowledging the place of the meat works in New Zealand’s social history, historically-significant items have been donated for conservation to the Ashburton Museum.
Being a good neighbour
Chudleigh says the Fairton neighbours are fantastic.
He set up a Fairton Working Group with six to eight representatives from the local township around the table. “Covid pending we meet every month to talk through what is happening and to answer any questions. It’s a great group.
“Meanwhile, we are right next to Fairton school, and we enjoy doing as much as we can with them. I love hearing the kids over the fence having a good time at school. A few of the things we have done with them is provide high vis jackets, run road safety sessions for the kids, and last Christmas we gave the children Christmas Advent Calendars. Two of our guys also work a day a week looking after the school grounds.
“A really cool project last year was a planting project we did with the school, and the Kanuka Mid Canterbury Regeneration Trust supported by Advance Ashburton. The project has seen an empty paddock next to the school transformed into a nature reserve,” he says.
The initiative is part of Kanuka Trust’s goal to protect and improve Mid Canterbury’s native plants and ecosystems.
Kanuka Trust founding trustee Angela Cushnie says the area will be split into sections, and the school pupils will learn as the plants grow.
‘‘We have created pathways through the gardens, and an open space in the middle, which is the outdoor classroom, so the kids will be able to monitor the lizards, the butterflies, the native bugs and the birds that will come here,’’ she says.
Chudleigh says the Fairton Tennis Club is another neighbour they give a hand to.
“Officially we are the landlord, but we are really keen to improve the facilities for the club. We are going to redo the courts and help with the hall’s maintenance, including redoing the floor in the hall. We want to make sure it is a great place to play tennis – although to be honest I won’t be joining them, my tennis is not that great!
Chudleigh adds the first year or so on the site has been a true local effort.
“Our project work across the site has been done by some great people; local builders, irrigation suppliers, civil and earthworks contractors. The area really has some fantastic people – we feel really lucky to be here working with them.”