Effort to Collect Milk from Cut-Off Westland Dairy Farmers
4 January 2013
Huge Effort to Collect Milk from Cut-Off Westland Dairy Farmers
A large transport operation is being coordinated by Westland Milk Products to collect milk from dairy farmers cut off by flood damage to the West Coast Highway near Hari Hari.
Some 50 supplier shareholders of Westland south of the Wanganui River were cut off from normal tanker collection services when the northern approach to the bridge was washed away in this week’s rain storms. Access across the bridge is not expected to be restored until midday Tuesday.
Some milk has had to be spilled into farm effluent disposal systems but the company is hopeful the majority of the milk will be collected in the next few days using a fleet of tankers travelling the long way around from Hokitika (via the East Coast and Haast) with the help of extra tankers supplied by a contract collection company.
Westland’s General Manager Operations Bernard May says contact has now been restored with the affected farmers, and Westland staff and local directors are on site to keep farmers informed and work with Hokitika to coordinate the collection effort.
“We are very grateful,” May says, “for the very supportive response we have received from fellow dairy companies which have agreed to process our milk so we don’t have to truck it all the way back to Hokitika. This means we can get a faster turnaround so we are hoping that within the next 24 hours or so we will have caught up on the backlog and prevent more milk having to be spilled.
“We also want to thank our farmer shareholders for their patience. This has been a difficult time for them and organising alternatives for collection has taken a bit of time.”
Mr May said Westland did not know at this stage how much milk had been disposed of. It was expected final figures would be available after Saturday’s tanker collections.
Westland was also relieved that there appeared to be no major issues with damage to farms or stock losses from the storms, Mr May says, although some farmers have lost fences, trees are down and some land inundated.
“The good thing was that the weather forecasters gave us two or three day’s notice of this storm so farmers were able to take appropriate action to protect stock.”