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Flooding at Hari Hari Disrupts Milk Collection


Flooding at Hari Hari Disrupts Milk Collection

Severe flooding on the South Island’s West Coast has washed out the approaches to the Wanganui River Bridge on the West Coast highway, cutting off some 50 farmer suppliers to Westland Milk Products.

Milk may have to be disposed of depending on how long it takes to restore access across the bridge. Westland spokesperson Bernard May says it could be up to three days before tankers can get back into the area.

Bernard says that the situation has been complicated by the fact that the flooding also took out a fibre optic cable running alongside the bridge, meaning telephone and internet contact with farmers is not possible except for those who happen to be in good cell phone reception areas.

“We are working urgently to get messages to farmers by any means possible about how to cope with this situation,” Bernard says. “Farmers are being told to dispose of their milk through their normal effluent disposal systems so we can avoid pollution of local waterways. They are being asked to only dispose of enough milk to allow them to store their most recent milking. This controlled release, along with the huge amount of water in local catchments and on the paddocks at the moment will minimise any environmental effects.

Westland is working with the Regional Council in respect of minimising any environmental impact of milk disposal and with transport authorities to do what can be done to get the access restored as soon as possible.

Bernard May says this includes sending a staff member equipped with a satellite phone by helicopter to the affected area to communicate directly with farmer shareholders.

“We understand the local telephone exchange is still working, so by getting our man down there we can get information to farmers quickly. We’re also putting notices on radio stations to help ensure every farmer gets the message and knows what to do.

“However, as a general rule, West Coast farmers plan for events like this because of the very nature of the country they are farming in. Many will have large capacity effluent storage ponds and will know to only release the minimum amounts necessary to take on any new milking.”


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