The ongoing Omicron outbreak is causing problems for businesses throughout the region, but Ruapehu-based wood processing operator WPI has taken action to keep the spread to a minimum.
An on-site PCR saliva testing laboratory has been in operation since the start of the year.
Derek Bensemann, WPI's manager of health, safety, security and privacy, said the company could "see what was coming" towards the end of last year.
"It was pretty scary, and I think all businesses had that same, horrible feeling," Bensemann said.
"We looked around and saw that Port of Napier had jumped the gun and got a lab. Pan Pac Forest Products, which is a similar sawmill/pulp mill company to us, said they were going to copy the port.
"Our managing director then asked us explore the options of getting a lab on site. We didn't muck around, our technical services manager Rodney Gutsell got stuck in straight away and set it up."
The lab at WPI consists of four Liberty16 units from New Zealand company Ubiquitome that combined can do 300 tests a day if required.
It was trialled just before Christmas with help from the Whanganui District Health Board.
Vaccine mandates weren't in place at the facilities, but WPI would "die in the ditch" about testing.
"If it wasn't for the supplier and for Russell [Simpson, chief executive] and the DHB team we wouldn't have felt supported, and we'd be bumbling around making a mess of it.
"Now we know we can keep the site safe."
Last week the company conducted the annual shut (maintenance) of its pulp mill, which operates 365 days a year.
"There were 168 extra contractors from around the country," Bensemann said.
"It was a logistical nightmare, but we made them all put in samples the day before.
"We kicked out nine before the shut. If they had done RAT tests I don't think we would have picked it up, and they would have gone on to work with all our staff and all the other contractors."
So far WPI has completed 12,959 PCR screening tests, detecting 63 positive cases of Covid-19 in staff and contractors.
It employs 280 people across the Tangiwai Saw Mill, Karioi Pulp Mill and in its corporate offices.
Staff on all sites are tested daily using the Liberty16 unit, which takes about two hours from prepping the saliva sample to showing the result on an app.
While there was a cost involved in running the lab, Bensemann said it was worth it.
"This is onshore already, they [Ubiquitome] can help you tomorrow. It's not in the UK or China, it's right here.
"It doesn't have to be a doctor or a nurse that operates the machines either. Someone can be trained up to use them."
The relationship with the DHB began when WPI ran a series of vaccination clinics on site last year, Bensemann said.
"We mentioned to Russell's team about the lab and they asked what support we would need from them.
"At that stage it was the whole lot, really. He directed resources to us straight away.
"Now we can contact the DHB directly to let them know who has tested positive, so they can make sure that person isn't sitting at home by themselves for seven days."
Bensemann said it was critical the mills stayed open.
WPI manufactures and exports 200,000 tonnes of board-grade mechanical pulp for the packaging industry every year.
"There would be a really negative effect on the business if it was forced to stop and start.
"You have to pour your heart and soul into it and try hard, and that's what we've done."