Humming Herb Farm business gets $216,000 of nurturing from taxpayers through the PGF

The Herb Farm, a family owned and operated business in the Manawatu, was established in 1993 and – according to its website –  “has grown into a humming business that works in harmony with the environment”.

A Stuff report quotes founder Lynn Kirkland’s daughter Sarah Cowan, who is now the  managing director, with her mother as research and development manager.

The industry might be highly competitive, but Cowan said the company was thriving.

This reiterated mention of the company’s robust corporate health earlier in the report:

A business built on a remedy for a bronchial chest is about to celebrate its 25th year.

When herbalist and founder of the Herb Farm in Ashhurst Lynn Kirkland was looking for natural remedies to keep her family healthy, little did she imagine that a quarter of a century later, the company would be expanding its New Zealand markets, exporting to countries in Asia and eyeing opportunities in Australia and Europe.

Nor (we are sure at Point of Order) would she have imagined being able to borrow money from taxpayers, rather than the bank, to expand her blooming business.

But as we learned this week from Shane Jones, NZ’s Minister of Munificence, the Provincial Growth Fund is giving The Herb Farm a $261,000 helping hand.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union takes a dim view of this sort of corporate welfare and responded by calling on taxpayers to boycott products from The Herb Farm.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says:

“The Herb Farm is supposedly ‘a globally successful skin-care brand’ with growing demand. So why does it need help from taxpayers? It appears to be accepting unnecessary corporate welfare just because Shane Jones has offered it. This is disgraceful.

”The loan isn’t just a risk for taxpayers: it’s unfair to The Herb Farm’s competitors, which operate without special favours. Entrepreneurs should focus on serving their customers, not greasing up Shane Jones and his bureaucrats.”

The Taxpayers’ Union drew attention to a transparency concern: Jones has not announced the terms, or even interest rate, attached to this loan, or any of the loans paid under his Provincial Growth Fund.

What Jones did say can be found in his media statement:  

PGF supports more manufacturing in Manawatū

A $261,000 loan from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has helped a family-run business in Manawatū to scale up manufacturing capacity, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced at its opening today.

Ashhurst-based skin-care business The Herb Farm is on track to increase output and hire more locals due to growth resulting from the PGF’s investment in a purpose-built manufacturing facility.

“The Herb Farm needed to expand production to keep pace with growing demands for their product range. PGF support has helped fund a new building which includes a purpose-built manufacturing unit, along with warehousing and storage facilities, so they can expand production while remaining local,” said Shane Jones.

“The Herb Farm is an excellent example of Kiwi entrepreneurship, starting from the kitchen bench of a family home in 1993 and growing into a globally successful skin-care brand. The PGF is all about supporting local businesses like The Herb Farm so they can contribute further to regional economies and stimulate growth.

“This project has wide local support, including from the Mayors of both Manawatū and Palmerston North City Councils, Horizons Regional Council, the Manawatū Chamber of Commerce, and Central Economic Development Agency. It also aligns with the priorities identified in the region’s economic action plan, Accelerate25.

“It’s a pleasure to again be able to support a successful provincial business and deliver on a region’s growth aspirations through the PGF,” Shane Jones said.   

The Taxpayers Union’s call to boycott the company does not seem to have been widely reported.

The aforementioned Stuff report was published early last year and focussed on the company’s establishment and growth.

In 1993, with the purchase of land on Grove Rd above Ashhurst, and armed with business development advice, the company was established as Herbal Harmony.

The cafe was added in 1997, and the name was changed to The Herb Farm in 1999.

The Grove Rd business, renowned for its range of natural products, as well as for its cafe and one hectare of garden, marked the anniversary around that time with a family fun day featuring four hours of live music, children’s activities and games, followed by a sold-out evening VIP function.

Just for VIPs?

Next time there’s a knees-up it would be nice to think that any taxpayer who happened by might be invited.

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