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Industry and Council working together in Awatoto

Published: 14 March 2023

Awatoto flooding

Awatoto is one of the parts of Napier most affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. A geographically small but economically significant area, Awatoto is home to a number of industries including a pet food company and a fertiliser works as well as the Napier Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was damaged during the cyclone and is currently non-operational.

Finding a way through the issues in the zone is taking a team effort with local industries and the council collaborating to try and get back to business 

There are 20 businesses in the area including Ruminate. Jack Tarrant, Managing Director, believes the affected industries have much to offer in finding solutions for the issues in the area.

“It’s certainly important for industry to have a voice in this,” says Jack. “What happened here is devastating, we worked for seven years to get where we were and then it’s all gone overnight.”

The Awatoto industrial area houses many different industries, and there are a wide range of chemical and biological materials held in the area. These materials were disturbed and mixed together during flooding. They then contaminated silt as floodwater moved through the area.  On Tuesday 21 February 2023, initial samples were taken at nine sites in the Awatoto area.

Samples taken were from a mix of spills, overflows and sections of water or silt that were observed to be different to other areas, as well as general areas of standing floodwater and silt in the vicinity. A controlled cordon was put in place as was the requirement to wear full PPE inside the zone. Over the coming weeks more samples were taken. Full results are yet to come back.

Bill Roberts, Napier City Council Economic Development Manager has been appointed as key account manager for the Awatoto Industrial Zone, explains that although comprehensive results aren’t in yet, early on industry was keen to get back in to their businesses.

“The only way we could do that was for Council and industry to work together, they need to get risk assessments done in their businesses but we have a duty of care to make sure people are safe, and the situation isn’t made worse,” Bill says.

“The sooner we can get things up and running and people back at their jobs safely the better for everyone, for the region and for New Zealand.”

Awatoto industry has set up a working group with Napier City Council, initiated by Nigel Halpin Operations Manager at BioRich, which recycles organic waste into compost.

“It has really flabbergastered me that everyone has come together as businesses, they’re all our neighbours, everyone has reached out. It is one of the silver linings, that human-ness, that caring,” explains Jack Tarrant. “Collaboration is important, we need to stay united as a team, Napier City Council is part of that team, they are part of us.”

Jack Tarrant sees the only way forward is one that takes into account everyone affected by the situation in Awatoto. “Flood water didn’t care where it went, silt didn’t care where it landed, this is a community problem, and it needs to be a community response which is why we’re on board 100 percent,” he says.

Napier City Council and the Awatoto working group are meeting multiple times a week. The council has also estabished an Awatoto Response Team, focused solely on the needs of Awatoto industry and residents.

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