All go on cement plant at port

The start of construction of Holcim's first cement importing plant in Australasia was celebrated at Timaru's port yesterday.

It will be the main storage plant for bulk cement for the South Island and the lower North Island, with one or two shipments a week.

The event was marked by the planting of a tree by Holcim chief executive Jeremy Smith and Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew.

"Someone asked me why a cement company would be planting a tree. I said it's to show the beginnings of a new partnership," Smith said.

It was also in keeping with the requirements of the resource consent, he said.

"We have selected trees that the council have in their town plan and are planting them to keep the look of the area that has already been developed."

Holcim has struck a 25-year deal with PrimePort Timaru to house one of two cement importing plants in New Zealand.

"Think of us as part of the community," Smith said.

Construction of the plant, worth an estimated $50 million, will take 17 months and can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People who live close to the port had expressed concerns earlier this year about the noise and dust that might come from the plant.

"Can you stand here and just listen for a moment," Smith said.

"The light truck driving past makes the same, if not more, noise than the operations here."

The terminal will also be able to operate around the clock when completed.

PrimePort is charged with strengthening, upgrading and maintaining Timaru's No 2 wharf. During construction up to 50 people will be employed and when completed the terminal will have eight fulltime staff.

It will be an international effort as people from Wales, Spain, South Africa, Egypt and Holland will contribute to the construction.

Dutch company Van Aalst, which specialises in the design and supply of equipment for cement companies, sent three people to the ceremony.

Managing director Arno van Aalst said it was his first time in Timaru and it was an invaluable experience being part of such a "special" project.

"Not only is this a first for Holcim, it is a first for us too. We will be back to oversee our part but we will also be relying heavily on emails and internet."

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