Kiwifruit packers EastPack hope to rally 100 staff together to help in the wake of the Edgecumbe floods.

Phil Karl, general manager of operations at EastPack, said it had closed its cool store in Edgecumbe yesterday but the plant had a lucky escape and had not been affected after a nearby stop bank held up overnight.

However around 30 of its staff would not be coming into work today after their homes were impacted by the flooding.

Karl said it had told workers to focus on looking after their families first and its thoughts were with those badly affected by the floods.


It was now considering what it was going to do around assembling an army together to help out.

"We have got a lot of people here...upwards of 100 people that could get out there but we have got to work out what we can do.

"We have a lot of workers available to help and we will be encouraging them to do so."

At this time of year the Edgecumbe plant had more than 250 workers including a lot of short-term workers which it brought it from overseas to help pack Kiwifruit.

Around 30 of those workers who were living in caravans in Edgecumbe had to be moved to a backpackers in Te Puke yesterday.

He said the Kiwifruit harvest had already been suspended ahead of yesterday's down-pour due to the recent wet weather.

"We have just been inundated with water."

Karl said it was hard to tell yet what impact that would have on the Kiwifruit season.


While the Kiwifruit were on vines above the flooding the ground itself was very wet making accessibility difficult, he said.

Karl said he would be assessing the situation today and seeing what it needed to mobilise over the weekend.

Fonterra, whose Edgecumbe plant is next to EastPack's, said plans to reopen the factory had taken a setback after staff re-assessed damage to the nearby floodbank.

"We will continue to assess the situation, but the welfare of our staff, farmers and animals remains our priority," Fonterra's Head of Farm Source Bay of Plenty said.

Fonterra's local Farm Source store would remain closed for the time being, she said.
About 50 Fonterra farm suppliers had been affected by the flooding.

"We have fielded a huge number of calls from nearby farmers with offers of help managing stock and support for the Edgecumbe community," Payne said.

She said Fonterra's tankers are being redirected to manufacturing sites in the Waikato
it would begin opening its plant today but it would be at least 12 hours before it is full operational.

The dairy giant closed the factory yesterday after the town flash flooded following heavy rain. Around 380 staff work at the plant over varying shifts.

The company is still assessing how many farms may be cut off by flooding, which would prevent milk from being collected.

Meanwhile the head of a Eastern Bay of Plenty business group said it would be reaching out to businesses to offer support in the wake of yesterday's floods.

Gerard Casey, chief executive of the Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce, based in Whakatane, said it would be talking to members and businesses about whether there is any assistance they can provide.

That assistance could include facilitating any financial support packages if the government announced packages like those offered after last year's Kaikoura quakes and well as physical supplies.

"Some of the members may have supplies of water or food that they can offer."

Casey said the heavy floods in Edgecumbe had caught people by surprise.

He had not heard of any flooding in central Whakatane but the river had been at its highest level ever, higher than during a flood in 2005.

He said people in Whakatane were very wary yesterday and some businesses had let staff go home early or work from home.

He would also be getting in touch with the local council to work in with it.