4 Oct 2022

Judge orders Westland Milk not to halt milk collection from Gloriavale farms

4:16 pm on 4 October 2022
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The company intended to stop collecting the milk from June but Gloriavale's Canaan Farming Dairy Limited filed an application seeking an injunction to overturn the decision. File pic Photo: yadamons/123RF

The High Court has ordered Westland Dairy Company to continue collecting milk from Gloriavale's dairy farms.

Earlier this year the company announced it would stop collecting milk from the Christian community after the Employment Court ruled members of the community who worked up to 70 hours a week were not volunteers.

Collection was set to stop in June but Gloriavale's Canaan Farming Dairy Limited filed an application for an interim injunction against Westland.

In a decision just released Justice Jan-Marie Doogue ordered Westland to continue to collect milk from Canaan's farms Bell Hill, Gloriavale and Glen Hopeful subject to the condition that Canaan does not employ any minors or associate partners under the age of 18 on its farms.

In the ruling Justice Doogue said there was no evidence before the court to establish that at the time the injunction was sought Canaan was in breach of its obligations as an employer.

"Canaan was not a party to the Employment Court proceeding. Its employment practices were not expressly examined in the judgment and were not under scrutiny.

"Even though there is reference in the judgment to the plaintiffs working on dairy farms it is substantially incomplete as to where or when this is alleged to have occurred."

The milk cheque Gloriavale receives from Westland exceeds $8m per year, the court heard.

"Without the income from its contracts with Westland, the community would have to look at cutting down on some, or all, of [of its] expenditure," Justice Doogue stated.

This would detrimentally affect innocent members of the Gloriavale community, she said.

A spokesperson for Westland Milk Products said the company acknowledged the High Court's decision.

"While our relationships with our suppliers are extremely important and based on mutual respect, our decision to suspend collection from Gloriavale was based on concerning employment and social issues identified by the courts.

"We hope these issues will be resolved to the satisfaction of those who have been affected as well as our customers as we continue to defend the best interests of our business in any ongoing legal process."

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