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Wattie’s Severely Hit By Gas Pipe Shutdown

Wattie’s Severely Hit By Gas Pipe Shutdown
- Staff and growers immediately affected

The shutdown by NGC of the gas pipeline to the East Coast is severely affecting Wattie’s, the country’s largest grocery foods manufacturer and it has the potential to disrupt exports to Japan and Australia.

Yesterday Wattie’s initiated a controlled shutdown of its boilers at its two manufacturing sites in Hastings – King Street and Tomoana – after advice from NGC of the risk to East Coast gas supplies as a result of a major washout in the Manawatu.

Wattie’s Managing Director Nigel Comer said the loss of gas could not have occurred at a more critical time for the business and its stakeholders.

“We are approaching the peak of seasonal production, and a shutdown such as this is affecting over a 1000 full and part-time staff, growers whose crops are ready for harvest, and customers, including exporters.

“We are working to mitigate the effects, but obviously if the plants are not operating we have to stand-down most staff and suspend harvesting of crops like corn, tomatoes and beetroot.

“The most important thing we need to know right now are what contingency plans are being made for resumption of supply and how long we will be without gas.

“The real risks are that we will have to by-pass crops that become over-ripe, which would be disastrous for growers.”

Mr Comer said Wattie’s supported 100% the decision to reserve what gas there was in the pipeline for the hospital and other emergency services.

“This is an absolute priority, but at the same time those affected by the shutdown need to be continuously updated so from a planning perspective they can make the best of a bad situation.

“The pipeline is critical to the Hawke’s Bay economy, and the longer businesses like our’s are out of action the deeper the distress of staff and growers particularly.”

Wattie’s is endeavouring to get information on the shutdown. Contact Energy and the owners of the pipeline, NGC, have to date been unable to confirm plans for resumption of supply.

ENDS

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