Ashburton Crowned Cooperative Capital of New Zealand

Boasting more than 40 cooperatively owned businesses, Ashburton on State Highway One and the Mid-Canterbury rural hinterland has been crowned the “Cooperative Capital of New Zealand”.

Boasting more than 40 cooperatively owned businesses, Ashburton on State Highway One and the Mid-Canterbury rural hinterland has been crowned the “Cooperative Capital of New Zealand”.

The NZ Cooperatives Association has awarded Ashburton the Cooperative Capital title as part of the UN 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, which is being recognised by cooperatives around the world.

NZCA chairperson Blue Read says Ashburton’s cooperatives provide for virtually every farming, business and household requirement a community could ever want or need.

“Just as Paeroa has its large bottle of L&P, Ohakune has its carrot and Rakaia its large scale salmon, we are offering Ashburton the right to erect the International Year of Cooperatives emblem on its outskirts as a welcome to the region,” Mr Read said.

Local farmer Jack Allan is a Fonterra milk supplier and a former chairman of the Ashburton Trading Society, now branded ATS. He likes the idea of Mid-Canterbury and Ashburton being branded the cooperative capital.

“Just look at what cooperatives have done for the region and even nationally.” Mr Allan said. “Cooperatively-owned buying groups like ATS have been the catalyst for competitive prices in the rural supplies sector for the entire Canterbury Province and even further afield.”

“When ATS started we didn’t advertise for members. Farmers saw the benefits and just joined. Most farmers would have recouped their membership fee with their first fertiliser order,” he said. “For farming to be successful we rely on keeping our costs in check and maximising the sale of what we produce.”

Cooperatives are more prolific in rural areas, which is put down to the community knowing their neighbours and a greater readiness in the country to help each other out.

“At $210 million, ATS turnover through its fertiliser, fuel, electricity, rural supplies and the ATS card is truly impressive and it arguably has one of the highest single-store revenue/turnovers of any rural supplies stores in the country,” Mr Allan said.

“When Ashburton Electricity was separated and established as a lines company, people readily accepted it as a cooperative, because they have high regard for the transparency and ethics of cooperative businesses.”

Mr Allan said irrigation schemes were another good example of people working together for a business objective and where every member is dependent on the performance of the cooperative.

Ashburton District Council Mayor Angus McKay said he was delighted with the “Cooperative Capital” title, and is a member of several local cooperative businesses. He is particularly proud of Ashburton Electricity which returns $3 to $5 million (depending on profitability) to the community each year. This includes between $100 and $140 in free line charges for low income families.

“It’s Ashburton to a T and has my total support,” Mr McKay said. “I’d be happy to promote the idea with the council, the community the local cooperative businesses to see how we can best use the “Cooperative Capital” branding.

Cooperatives servicing Ashburton and Mid Canterbury include:

Acton Farmers Irrigation Cooperative
Alliance Group
Ashburton First National
Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation
ATS (Ashburton Trading Society)
Ballance Agri-Nutrients
Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation
Capricorn Society
Cochrane’s of Canterbury (Origin Agroup)
Coural (Rural Couriers Society)
East Side Gallery Cooperative Society
Electricity Ashburton
Flowers and Balloons (Interflora)
FMG (Farmers Mutual Group)
Fonterra Cooperative Group
GJ Blacklow (Tradezone Industrial Group)
Hec’s Four Square (Foodstuffs South Island)
Health 2000
Kitchen Kapers (Composite Retail Society)
Lyndhurst Water Scheme Cooperative
Mayfield Hinds Irrigation
Mitre 10
Netherby Four Square (Foodstuffs South Island)
Netherby Pharmacy (CDC Pharmaceuticals)
New World Ashburton (Foodstuffs South Island)
NZCU Baywide (ex-Manchester Unity Credit Union)
NZCU South
Paper Plus
Redmonds Furnishing & Flooring (Composite Retail Society)
RD1 (Fonterra Cooperative Group)
Searles Allentown Pharmacy (CDC Pharmaceuticals)
Silver Fern Farms
Smith & Church Appliances (Appliance Connexion)
Stepping Out (Composite Retail Society)
Stewart & Holland (Appliance Connexion)
The China Shop (Composite Retail Society)
Todds Fashions (Composite Retail Society)
UFS Ashburton (CDC Pharmaceuticals)
Valetta Irrigation
Wises Pharmacy (CDC Pharmaceuticals)

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