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Retail visitors . . . Bus passnegers take the opportunity to shop at Harris Meats retail store in Cheviot. Photo: Jane Thompson

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Ashburton’s loss may be Cheviot’s gain.

A small family business near Cheviot, Harris Meats, has extended a hand of hope to at least a few of the 370 workers caught up in the proposed closure of the Fairton Works near Ashburton.

Bryan Harris, a director of Harris Meats, says the company has vacancies on its slaughter floor and in its butchery/boning department for the “right people’.

Harris Meats would relocate those it feels are right for the jobs. However, Mr Harris warns relocating to a small rural village may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. But the company would do its best to look after them and help them settle in.

He says new recruits don’t necessarily have to live in Cheviot as at one stage nine workers had lived in Amberley but over time that had “dwindled”.

Harris Meats has a proud history dating back 62 years, with Mr Harris’ parents starting up a small butchers shop business which has now grown over time to become an abattoir, meat processor and wholesaler employing 45 people.

It supplies product to supermarkets, hotels and restaurants and supports its local North Canterbury community through the private processing of their animals – cutting, packing and labelling it to the customers requirements.

It has a small retail shop in Cheviot and like other businesses in the town is endeavouring to meet the challenges imposed by last November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which has virtually brought traffic through the town to a halt, with the bulk of traffic having to use the Lewis Pass route as the only path north.

In spite of the business continuing to flourish Mr Harris says the quake has caused some upheaval and added extra costs with transportation of products north having to take the long route round and stocking the shelves of customers in Kaikoura means a trip through the Inland Road, adding many kilometres to a round trip.

But despite the challenges Mr Harris says he is very proud of the business, the quality of the staff employed and its growing reputation in a world now dominated by rules and regulation.

“There are not many businesses our size in little towns like ourselves. We are almost the only one around,” he says.

The only drawback is finding enough “human resources” to fill the vacancies in the family business.