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Communities Band Together to Get through the Storm

Communities Band Together to Get through the Storm

With road access cut off and power out, Westland Milk Products shareholder suppliers banded together to ensure cows were milked and both human and animal welfare attended to during the severe wind storm that hit the West Coast during the last 36 hours.

General Manager Operations Bernard May says a tremendous community spirit got many farmers through the worst of the storm and helped to greatly reduce the impact of the event on some farms.

“We experienced access difficulty,” May said, “with roads out because of dangerously high winds, plus downed trees and live power lines, which meant tanker milk collection was delayed. Phones were out too, so we could not even reach some of our shareholders, especially in the Buller and South Westland.

“But as we were able to get staff through to our shareholders farms we started to hear some great stories of community support as neighbours banded together to help each other out. Shareholders were working with each other, taking generators from farm to farm to get the milking done. Some who had not lost power were able to arrange for their neighbours’ cows to be milked in their sheds. People also got together spontaneously to plan community support, make sure folk were OK and that animal welfare was also being maintained.”

May said that Westland’s shareholders were also generous in praise of staff who went the extra mile to get through in very trying conditions.

“In spite of the conditions we were able to collect milk from the vast majority of farms. In a few isolated cases farmers were forced to dispose of milk, but this was minimised due to farmers using spare on-farm storage capacity, aided by the time of the season when milk flows are naturally decreasing anyway.” May said it was not possible, at this time, to give an estimate of the amount of milk pumped through to farm effluent ponds but it was expected to be minimal.

Some reports of damage to on-farm plant were starting to come through, May said, but these still had to be collated and assessed. Fortunately, in spite of very high winds and spikes in power supply, there was no significant damage to the Hokitika plant, which continued to operate throughout the storm period. The milk train service that takes finished product to Westland’s warehouse in Canterbury was cancelled yesterday as a precaution but is back on schedule today.


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