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Official moment . . . Mataura Valley Milk founding director Ian Tulloch (right) snips the ribbon while general manager Bernard May looks on when the first tanker of milk is delivered to the plant. PHOTOS: MARGARET PHILLIPS

The delivery of the first tanker of milk to the new Mataura Valley Milk plant at McNab is a long-held dream come true for founding director Ian Tulloch.

“We’ve done it,” he said.

The first tanker rolled into the $240million nutrition plant on Monday morning to off-load its precious cargo. A gathering formed to watch the first delivery.

Mr Tulloch said the idea of building a milk-processing plant first came to mind in 1995, but he never dreamed the reality would be of such large proportions or cater for a niche nutritional market, or that he would be involved.

“Instead of a commodity it’s a niche,” Mr Tulloch said.

The Gore district was the ideal site for a new dairy company, he said.

Part of his dream was that the new plant would provide employment for people in the district.

He described the Chinese market as burgeoning since the one-child-per-family policy was removed.

Mr Tulloch’s involvement in the building of the plant started off a little shakily as the driving forces behind the venture, Chris Shelley and Mike Williams, could not finance the deal they started.

Mr Tulloch, who was listed as a director, picked up the pieces and paid outstanding debt.

Through the global financial crisis and various other setbacks, Mr Tulloch held on to his dream.

“It’s been like putting a big monster jigsaw together,” he said.

It was very satisfying to see the plant open after eight years of hard work by many people.

“It’s having a big impact on the district – exciting times.”

MVM’s major shareholder, the China Animal Husbandry Group, was a very good partner in the project, he said.

MVM general manager Bernard May thanked everyone who had contributed to making the company’s vision take another step towards becoming a reality.

“It’s a proud day for our team and everyone involved in developing what we believe will be the world’s best nutrition business,” Mr May said.

“We’re very, very happy with the spread of suppliers and their proximity to the nutrition plant.”

Waikaka Valley farmers Rosie and Malcolm McIntosh said they were delighted to be supplying their milk to a high-value processing plant.

“We did a fair bit of homework and looked at the plant, and that it was going to be at the high end of the nutritional formula market,” Mr McIntosh said.

“They wanted good milk and we have good milk, so it made sense.”

Demand for quality nutrition worldwide was growing at a rapid rate and New Zealand was in an excellent position to produce and export high-quality nutritional products, he said.

“We are looking forward to production getting started – it’s an exciting time for the district,” Mrs McIntosh said.

Mr May commented that shareholder suppliers were crucial players alongside other shareholders in the company’s strategy.

Farmer shareholders are represented on the MVM board.

May said MVM had been dealing with significant international nutritional customers from the start and would be producing product from day one.

“We’re delivering what we said we would and customers are on board with that,” Mr May said.

Skim and whole milk powder would be produced as the plant came on stream, with the first nutritional formula production scheduled for February.

“Being able to manufacture and produce nutritional product in the first year will be an absolute milestone,” he said.