Quake damage closes brewery

GILES BROWN
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2011
Canty brewery
TIME TO GO: The St Asaph Street brewery was so badly damaged in the February earthquake it has to be demolished.

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Canterbury Draught will no longer be made in Canterbury, with earthquake damage closing its Christchurch brewery and forcing nearly 40 workers to look for new jobs.

However, Lion, which owns the brewery, says it plans to build a $15 million warehouse and distribution centre on part of the Antigua St site.

The February 22 earthquake warped the foundations of the 10-hectare complex, stopping production of beers like Stella Artois Legere, Becks and Guinness, and causing shortages in pubs and shops over the past three months.

Yesterday, the company announced the site, which has been in use since the 1950s, would stop brewing for the "foreseeable future".

In the brewery packing room yesterday, rows of empty bottles still stood where terrified workers abandoned them during the quake.

"It was horrific for the people involved," Lion acting managing director Rory Glass said. "From one of the buildings, we had a concrete slab fall through the wall and land on another building. It's a miracle no-one was hurt."

The company was assessing how badly the nine buildings that make up the complex were affected, but some were likely to be demolished. Pipes that honeycomb the buildings had bent and broken, while walls listed and cracked.

The roof of one building had shifted so far that another shake could cause it to collapse, Glass said.

Thirty-eight employees would either have to take some of the 16 jobs available at the Speight's Brewery in Dunedin, or 28 jobs at its Auckland facility, he said.

About 11 had already transferred to Dunedin temporarily.

"I think it's fair to say there was a bit of disappointment, but some understanding as well, given the circumstances," Glass said.

"People have put a lot of sweat and toil into this place."

He hoped work on the new warehouse and distribution centre would finish next year.

Corporate affairs director Neil Hinton said it was possible a smaller brewery could be built on the site.

"It is unlikely we would ever have a brewery of this scale here again, but we are certainly not discounting the possibility that we might have something else," he said.

"We couldn't wait until we had all those plans sorted to get everybody certainty in their lives. At the same time we wanted to maintain a strong presence in Christchurch and make a commitment to the CBD."

Lion's new investment drew praise from Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, who lauded the company's "positive commitment" to the region.

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Lion hoped to make up for the loss by investing $20m and $8m in its Dunedin and Auckland breweries to increase capacity.

- The Press

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