Ballance History

 The history of Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited is one of foresight, partnership and perseverance.

Its origins can be traced back to the late 1800s, when sulphur was mined at White Island, an active off-shore volcano situated in the Bay of Plenty. Conditions were bleak and health and safety non-existent - at one point an eruption killed 14 men working on the island. The mined sulphur was shipped to Tauranga, where it was refined before being sold both in New Zealand and Australia.

As New Zealand's farming industry grew, so too did the demand for quality fertiliser products. In the early twentieth century, tests at Ruakura showed the benefit of phosphatic fertilisers, and as time went on demand for these increased, particularly as more land was broken in for pastoral use.


In the post-Second World War years, farmers in some regions of the country were experiencing difficulties getting sufficient fertiliser as and when they needed it. In both Southland and the Bay of Plenty, these farmers decided to take action.

In Southland, a group of local farmers formed the Southland Co-operative Phosphate Company in 1947, although the first shares were not issued until 1955. At the same time, farmers in the Bay of Plenty were working towards the establishment of the Bay of Plenty Fertiliser Co-operative, which also issued its first shares in 1955.

Both co-operatives benefited from the nearby port facilities, which enabled phosphate rock to be shipped in from locations such as Nauru and Christmas Island.

The two co-operatives operated independently through the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday years of New Zealand agriculture.


In 1984, the face of the rural economy changed dramatically when government fertiliser subsidies were removed. The effects were not only felt by fertiliser manufacturers, but also by ancillary operations, such as the top-dressing industry. In 1987 a collective of aerial top-dressers approached the Bay of Plenty co-operative with the aim of forming an alliance to ensure their long-term survival. The collective, known as Super Air, became a subsidiary of BOP Fertiliser.

In that same year BOP consolidated its position in the central North Island by merging with Kiwi Fertiliser, a subsidiary of the Fernz Corporation. The resulting entity was BOP Fertiliser Ltd, 60 percent of which was owned by the Bay of Plenty Fertiliser Co-operative, and 40 percent of which was held by Fernz.

At this time, fertiliser manufacturers in New Zealand were focused on producing superphosphate, which had radically changed the farming landscape. It supplied both phosphate and sulphur, two nutrients that were deficient in many New Zealand soils.

In 1992, BOP Fertiliser turned its attention to another nutrient that was important for farming success - nitrogen. The company purchased the country's only ammonia-urea manufacturing plant, at Kapuni in Taranaki. Significant investment was made in this plant to convert it into a top-quality manufacturing facility.


The late 1990s saw the fertiliser industry in New Zealand undergo a significant degree of consolidation. BOP Fertiliser merged successfully with the Southland Co-operative, but only after a lengthy battle and a favourable ruling from the Commerce Commission. A year later (1998), BOP Fertiliser purchased Whangarei-based Farmers Fertiliser from Fernz Corporation, extending its customer base from north to south, and adding another manufacturing plant to its facilities.

Prior to the end of the century the company underwent further change. The co-operative bought half of the 40 percent shareholding held by Fernz, returning more ownership to farmer-shareholders. At the same time, international fertiliser giant Norsk Hydro (today known as Yara), purchased the remaining Fernz shareholding. This was an important alignment for the co-operative, as it ensured access to a significant pool of knowledge and research about plant nutrients, as well as Yara's speciality fertiliser products.


With four entities operating under one umbrella, it was time to strengthen the connections between each division and so in 2001 the company was relaunched as Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited. The bright new logo reflected the company's commitment to a scientific approach to farm nutrient management. The name of the company was a tribute to John Ballance, the prime minister who created the legislation that opened the way for New Zealand's rapid, agricultural-based economic expansion. John Ballance died in office in 1893.

As part of Ballance's growth strategy, fertiliser outlets throughout the country were either upgraded or built anew, an exercise that saw an investment of $20 million. The aim was to provide as many New Zealand farmers as possible with easy access to Ballance products and services.

The company completed its planned evolution in 2005, when the co-operative bought the 20 percent shareholding held by Yara. As a result, Ballance was once again a 100 percent farmer-owned company, a position that leaves it ready to move into the next phase of its development.

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