15/11/2017 11:42 SAST | Updated 15/11/2017 11:50 SAST

New Zealanders Raise Funds To Save Chocolate Industry

This is a bid to save the decades-old tradition of chocolate making in Dunedin.

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New Zealanders have donated NZ$2-million (almost R20-million) in less than two weeks since the start of a crowdfunding page that was created in the hope of saving a decades-old tradition of chocolate making in Dunedin, the second-largest city on the Pacific nation's South Island.

The website is reported to have crashed multiple times because of a huge interest.

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According to The Guardian, Mondalez International announced earlier this year that it plans to shift its production to larger Australian plants and close down Dunedin's 80-year-old Cadbury factory in 2018, which would then leave 350 employees without jobs.

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Community group Save the Factory failed in its bid to buy the Cadbury factory for NZ$20-million (~R200-million), but has since joined forces with boutique Dunedin chocolate producer Ocho to expand their business.

The joint venture will allow them to employ more people –– including former Cadbury's workers –– and keep the tradition of chocolate making alive in New Zealand's oldest city.

The owner of Ocho, Liz Rowe, said that she expects the fundraising effort to take a couple of weeks, rather than days. She also said that the groundswell of support has shown how important chocolate and jobs were to the people of Dunedin.

"Saving some of those jobs was a huge impetus. One of the values of the new company is to create as many jobs as possible," said Rowe.

"Dunedin is a regional centre, and there is a strong feeling in this community that we don't want to see all these businesses get bought up and shipped out, and moved either further north or offshore. There is a strong feeling to keep manufacturing here; to keep jobs local."