Construction of Waikato's newest milk processing plant will finally start later this year.
A 6ha site is being prepared at Otorohanga for the $280 million Happy Valley Nutrition Ltd plant that will produce high-value specialty dairy ingredient powders for export markets.
The project has been in the pipeline for several years as Happy Valley sought resource consents and funding. Covid-19 has also delayed the project by a few years.
In February, Happy Valley announced that it had taken out a $13m loan and secured $7.4m through secured private placement of convertible notes. The money was used to buy strategic farmland to irrigate wastewater from the plant.
The ASX-listed company plans to develop a single dryer facility with the site master-planned to allow for the addition of an extra drier as well as a blending and canning plant.
The company says $7 million has been budgeted for earthworks.
The factory is expected to be commissioned in 2023.
Happy Valley chief executive Greg Wood says the start of earthworks is a "very notable milestone" for shareholders and investors.
"Our earthworks contractors are making solid progress, weather conditions have been favourable and critical works are advancing safely," Wood says.
"It is very satisfying to witness this project finally emerging from what was until recently a paddock, and these earthworks are confirmation that Happy Valley is well into the physical development of what will be one of the most advanced nutritional grade processing facilities in the world."
Site works include implementing access roads, drainage works, public road realignments and ground improvements for the spray dryer building.
"Performing earthworks now enables in efficient commencement of the construction phase of the facility," Wood adds.
He says the recent funding Happy Valley has secured gives the company the necessary financial flexibility to ensure it meets immediate project delivery milestones.
Wood claims the company is making "excellent progress" with respect to securing customers.
"Engagement is advancing with groups locally and from Europe, and Asia, which validates the strong demand for the specialty dairy products Happy Valley is targeting."