Thanks to the combination of free-draining fertile soils, regular rainfall, lots of sun and moderate temperatures, Taranaki is perfect for farming, in particular dairy farming.

Taranaki’s dairy farming history dates back to the 1880s with the establishment of the region’s first dairy factories. By 1901 there were 95 butter factories in Taranaki and a further 31 cheese production facilities.

Taranaki also lays claim to New Zealand’s first dairy export by entrepreneur Chew Chong who sent two kegs of Eltham butter to England in 1885, as well as the invention of the rotary milking shed by Eltham farmer Merv Hicks in 1967.

Today, Taranaki is at the forefront of dairy production and processing. The region is home to the world’s largest milk production facility by annual volume, Fonterra’s Whareroa Plant near Hawera, which produces milk powder, butter, casein whey and cheese. The region also boasts the largest secondary cheese operation in Asia-Pacific as well as a high-tech lactose plant producing pharmaceutical lactose for the global medical industry and a speciality artisan cheese facility. These four Fonterra production facilities alone employ over 1700 staff.

The remainder of the 5,517 people employed in the region’s dairy industry can be found farming throughout Taranaki. Two thirds of Taranaki’s farms are dedicated to dairy production, which is home to 10% of the country’s milking cows spread across 10% of the country’s dairy land.  The estimated value of milk production to the regional economy is $701 million (2015/16).
As a result of being a well-developed dairy region, Taranaki has evolved sophisticated infrastructure to support the specific needs of the industry. The region’s modern farming community has access to a wide range of advice and support services relating to farming practices, milk production and processing.

As overseas demand for New Zealand’s dairy products remains high and there is still significant potential for growth, a successful dairy industry is likely to continue to be a mainstay of the Taranaki economy.