Taupo will miss benefits from construction

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013

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Whether it was providing sausages, sandwiches for smoko, or a place to sleep, Taupo businesses are likely feel a blip when construction on $800 million Te Mihi geothermal power station winds down around mid-year, a local businessman says.

The large workforce brought into the town over the past 18 months to two years to build Te Mihi has been a mini-boom for small businesses.

For the past five or six years Taupo has been relatively sheltered from the economic lows with construction of the $110m east Taupo arterial bypass, and Mighty River Power's $430m Nga Awa Purua and $466m Ngatamariki geothermal stations.

Butchers, rental accommodation providers and food suppliers all reaped benefits supplying the needs of a workforce which peaked at 500 with an average take home pay around $1000 a week.

M21 Meats owner, and deputy mayor, Mike Downard said the business would feel a drop in sales when Te Mihi was completed.

"We had our worst winter in 10 years last year and the wholesale sales to Te Mihi helped us along," he said.

Downard said the business had been popular with the site's workforce buying meat for pre-Christmas shouts.

About $4000 worth of meat was rumoured to have been bought for one shout.

The butchery provided Christmas vouchers to the workforce to spend at the shop, he said.

"The whole thing about these construction sites is that the local townspeople are the big beneficiaries of whatever the workforce spends their money on - whether it is sausages, groceries, or accommodation - it's good for the town.

"We will notice it when the station is completed, until another large construction site starts up.

"Without Te Mihi the town would have been worse for sure."

Harcourts Taupo rental property manager Jenny Elstob said around 12 houses had been rented by the company to workers during construction.

"Many are saying they will be looking to vacate in four to six months."

Many of the properties have been tenanted by groups of individuals at an average of $450 a week.

The firm had also rented a 10-room backpackers for workers, she said.

"We also employ cleaners to maintain the properties so it has a run-on effect for other staff when the site is finished," she said.

Friends Cafe owner Lane McSkimming supplied onsite lunches and smoko catering up to six days a week to Te Mihi workforce for the past 15 months.

On average the business sold about 500 pies, sandwiches, and drinks to workers each day.

McSkimming said he was able to employ two extra staff to be onsite because of the high demand.

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"The site has definitely helped us through a lean period. The town itself has been pretty quiet since last summer and right through the winter."

Taupo bars were no busier than normal because of strict health and safety conditions at the Te Mihi site in staff were subject to random breath alcohol tests at the entrance gates.

Contact Mike Watson
Taupo reporter
Email: mike.watson@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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