WORKERS left Fonterra's Dennington factory with their heads held high as the dairy giant closed the gates on the century-old site.
About 70 workers completed a final clean of the site on Thursday, before they shared a meal together in the factory's tearoom for a final time.
But workers said while finishing felt "strange" the day wasn't sombre, thanks to manager Joel Saywell who made humorous presentations and kept morale high.
Annie Bourke, who has worked at the site for 40 years, said she was grateful for all the factory had given her.
"I owe my life and what I've got to this place, and walking out today, even though it's a strange feeling, it's a feeling of 'wasn't I lucky I had that opportunity'," Ms Bourke said.
"That's one part of our life gone, we've got to move on and we'll continue."
She walked from the gates with her workmate of four decades Shirley Noonan, who said workers were well prepared for their final day after Fonterra announced the closure six months ago. The company blamed a declining milk pool for the shutdown.
"I think they've taken us down slowly," Ms Noonan said.
The next chapter of the site remains unknown with Fonterra tight-lipped about any sale of the site, but workers on their final day were united in a call for a business to buy it.
"It's for the younger generation, I got all I had from this factory," Ms Bourke said.
"They are going to be looking for jobs. If I hadn't of had this opportunity I don't know where I would have ended up.
"I hope that Fonterra sign in the near future will say something else."
Married couple Maria and Leo Flaherty have collectively worked at the site for more than 30 years, and both called for the site to continue.
"Instead of it being turned into some kind of a ghost place, (we want) something that would give jobs to people around the area. Anything rather than an empty place," Ms Flaherty said.
"From a manufacturing point of view, this place has a lot going for it."
The day marked an end to the site's 110-year history for the foreseeable future, but Ms Noonan said the close-knit workforce's friendships would endure. "It's not the end, it's the end of the factory, but a lot of people will catch up now," Ms Bourke said.
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