Relief at arrival of milk tankers

By Elaine Fisher

The arrival of Fonterra milk tankers yesterday was a welcome sight for some Te Puke and Katikati dairy farmers worried they may have to dump more milk.

Lynette and Andrew Stuart of Te Puke had poured around 4000 litres of milk into their effluent ponds on Tuesday but last night a tanker arrived to collect their milk.

They were among hundreds of farmers around the country who had to dump milk because dairy factories couldn't take it after a major gas and power crisis caused by a fractured Maui gas pipeline.

"It was such a relief to see the tanker. It wasn't pleasant standing watching the milk go down into the ponds the day before," Mrs Stuart said.

Katikati farmers Alan Williams of Thompsons Track and Stephen Noble of Kauri Point were more fortunate.

Both had their milk collected on Tuesday morning but had been expecting to have to empty their milk vats into ponds or spray milk on to pasture.

Mr Williams said if that had happened it wouldn't have been the first time in his many decades of dairying.

"It's never pleasant. It's not about the money, it's the waste of all that good food."

Mr Noble said his farm vats could hold milk from three milkings and he hoped they would be emptied by a tanker some time today.

Fonterra farmers, reported to be throwing away up to $20 million of milk a day, are being asked to dispose of the milk in their paddocks not waterways.

It is understood Fonterra will be doing night collections in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato from today.

Vector believes sub-surface ground movement may have caused a crack in the Maui pipeline which is also crippling many other businesses in the central and upper North Island.

Vector chief executive Simon Mckenzie said repair teams were likely to complete excavating the site to give them access to the pipe today. "This is a very delicate process because we do not want to compound any of the issues of the pipeline through excavating too quickly and causing any land issues," he said.

"The team continues to work 24/7 and, in parallel with this, the pipeline repair options are all fully developed and once that pipeline is fully excavated then we will choose which repair option is the best one to utilise."

Gas supply has resumed to essential services like hospitals, however, they, and residential gas users, are being asked to be as conservative as possible with their gas usage.

Burger King was forced to close almost all its restaurants in the upper North Island - The Tauranga and Mount Maunganui stores both confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday that they were closed.

Gym-goers at Les Mills had to endure cold showers and Burger Fuel spokeswoman Rachael Allison said the company had closed 39 restaurants. Only two remained open, those at Dairy Flat and Turangi running off bottled gas.

Bread products under the Quality Bakers brand have also been affected by the leak, said Goodman Fielder director of corporate affairs Ian Greenshields.

The company produces and distributes a number of baking, bread, dairy, meat, and oil brands.

"We had to shut bakeries yesterday - everything north of New Plymouth. There is a limited range (of Quality Bakers products), but we hope we will be able to maintain adequate supplies."

The Meadowfresh milk brand would not be affected because the plant is in Palmerston North, said Mr Greenshields.

Auckland Council has begun shutting down gas supplies to its buildings and services, which could disrupt swimming pools and crematoria.

The Service and Food Workers Union says it has been deluged with calls from workers whose jobs are affected by the leak.

"Thousands of our members are employed in large food processing factories like Griffins and Bluebird in the upper North Island," said SFWU food industry leader Chas Muir.

Mr Muir said the SFWU was advising members that they should not lose any pay. with APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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