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Council working together with industry to resolve Awatoto contamination

Published: 7 March 2023

Last Updated: 8 March 2023

Awatoto flooding

Today, Napier City Council met with business leaders from flood-affected areas of the Awatoto industrial area to discuss the ongoing impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle. 

The meeting came after a cordon was put in place around the Awatoto industrial area, manned by security guards. 

Awatoto was hit hard by flooding during Cyclone Gabrielle leaving behind floodwaters that contained biological and chemical contaminants from the industries in the area and Napier City Council’s wastewater treatment plant. 

Preliminary testing of the area has been undertaken and initial results show high levels of contamination in silt and remaining flood waters, which could be harmful to people.  

Napier City Council is working closely with the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee chaired by FENZ, which advised in a report that a hard cordon around the area is necessary to ensure public cannot access the site.  

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise says the priority must be health and safety. 

“The issues in this area are complex with comprehensive testing and planning underway. With 20 businesses in the area, we are acutely aware of the regional and national significance of major industry in Awatoto. We are committed to working with the affected businesses to achieve the best possible outcomes for everyone,” says Mayor Wise. 

“The effects of Cyclone Gabrielle have been devastating for these businesses and there is lots of work to do to restore work sites for operation. We are working hard to ensure we can get businesses back in operation as soon as we possibly can.” 

Napier City Council Acting Chief Executive Richard Munneke says “We are taking a coordinated approach to find the right solutions. The area is being investigated by scientific specialists so sites can be cleared and appropriately remediated. We expect to be able to re-evaluate the cordon by 16 March at the earliest.” 

Preliminary testing results show traces of acids, caustic agents, significant biological hazards, high ammonia pockets, hydrocarbons, sulfuric dioxide, insecticides, pesticides and other hazards. Further test results are expected in the next week or so.  

The residential area in Awatoto has been assessed and the public health risks from exposure to chemical contamination of the land are likely to be low for those living in, or assisting to clean-up, residential areas.  

Residents are advised to take standard precautions as other flood affected areas were advised to, such as mask-wearing, glove-wearing and handwashing. 

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