Businesses bounce back from April flood

21:56, Aug 07 2013
Viridian Glass
FLASHBACK: Viridian Glass staff Joel Collier, left and Malcolm Borgfeldt clear mud and water from the Wakatu Industrial Estate business after heavy rain caused flooding.

When 100mm of rain bucketed down in just one hour in the Stoke-Richmond area on April 21 this year, a number of small to medium businesses in the Wakatu Industrial Estate were particularly hard hit.

This week, reporters Sally Kidson and Tarranum Shaikh went back to the area to see how they are getting on.

Viridian Glass is getting back to "some normality" after suffering "substantial" damage in the range of $1.5 million to $2.5 million in the April floods.

 Brad Kelling
SMASHING: Brad Kelling of Brad's Smash Repairs in Wakatu Estate is back on track with a new office and workshop following the April floods.

"We've got through the worst of it and operations are back up and running and we are just finishing off our show room which is getting renovated," sales manager Steve Scott said.

Steve said the major work had been done and it was now a case of putting the finishing touches to the showroom.

"At this stage it is basically business as usual."


Nathan and Hayley Jeffries
CLEANED UP: Siblings Nathan and Hayley Jeffries in the re-built showroom at Ezy Kitchens and Appliances in Wakatu Estate.

The business, which manufactures and installs glass, employs 40 people and was one of the worst-hit in Wakatu Estate in the April flood.

The damage was caused by an almost unprecedented cloudburst that dumped 100 millimetres of rain in an hour - a near-record rate for New Zealand since weather data was first collected.

Orphanage Creek, which runs between Viridian Glass and Bunnings, overflowed through the factory.

Ulirch Heck
BACK ON TRACK: Ulrich Heck of Heck's German Smallgoods is getting back on track following the April flood.

Damaged glass had to be thrown away, specialised machinery was damaged , and the offices and showroom were ruined.

The force of the water was so great heavy shipping containers were moved on the showroom floor. About 80 centimetres of water went through the ground floor.

The factory was also badly damaged in the July 2009 windstorm.

 Grant and Andrea Sutton
UP AGAIN: Grant and Andrea Sutton of Waterblaster Solutions.

It took a month to get the factory cleaned and up and running and the next two months to slowly build up production.

"It is just probably recently [in the last couple of weeks] that we've actually been able to get the operation back to where it was," Steve said.

The company is part of a national franchise and had to rely on Christchurch and Auckland for supply of product.

For the first three weeks the focus was on cleaning up the badly damaged factory and getting it running.

"The whole place was gone through.

" All our servers, all our showroom, all our offices, all the furniture all our displays, the equipment had be repaired or replaced - just basically everything in the whole facility."

It has required a new fit-out in the factory and offices, with walls re-done and new flooring.

"It's all starting to look good now. It's all pretty much there now."

Steve says he watches heavy rain warnings now.

"It was a huge thing. It is not something you would want to happen again . . . It would be catastrophic for it to happen again. It was pretty catastrophic to begin with."

Brad's out of the flood

Walking into Brad's Smash Repairs you can still smell the aroma of fresh paint lingering on the walls.

Three months after the April floods hit the Wakatu Industrial Estate, the business is back on track.

Owner Brad Kelling said from the outset he picked up what remained of his workshop and was "just getting on".

"At the moment I'm working seven days a week. I rarely get away by 7pm.

"Everybody had the same problem.

"We just took it upon ourselves to manage the whole thing. We just got on and got it done."

They had the support of their customers.

"We've got a lot of clients that are sparkies and plumbers through our business. So we just rang people like that and they just jumped on it.

"I think there's a certain amount of compassion in the community."

Brad said publicity following the flood meant he had received business from people who wanted to help.

"It's the busiest it has ever been."

He said the businesses in Wakatu Estate were a small community and relied on each other, so when most were flood-hit it had been hard.

The company had an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 damage in the flood, which included a near total loss of machinery, customers' cars, machinery, plant computers ruined by the water and silt that rushed into the workshop.

They still have a small backlog of work, but were about a week away from getting rid of that. The new office is just a reminder to Brad of the immense strain he had in the past three months.

"If anyone had said to me the Friday before it happened ‘Are you prepared for the flood?' that would've been the last thing I would've imagined."

Deluge ordeal

For building owners Alan and June Jeffries, April's flood caused three times the trouble because they own three buildings in the Wakatu Estate.

The couple who own the block including IndeServe, Jellicoe and Ezy Kitchens, copped $250,000 worth of damage for Ezy Kitchens alone.

Half a metre of water flooded through the workshop while 25 centimetres washed through the kitchen showroom.

"All our appliances that were on the ground got hammered and quite a bit of kitchens did [too], though they have been replaced," says their son Nathan, who also works in the family business.

"So you imagine everything knee high going through. It hit all the machinery. We had to replace them all."

The shop had become a building site, where they had to work in gumboots for four weeks.

"I think it was quite major for us too because we own the whole building. So we've got Jellicoe and IndeServe to fix up [as well]," says daughter Hayley.

The store's production has been pushed back eight weeks but is slowly recovering and the firm's insurance claim is progressing. "We've definitely seen the light at the end of the tunnel but wouldn't want to go through it again. No way." Nathan says.

Keep calm and make sausages

Disaster is not supposed to hit the same place twice - but Stoke business owner Ulrich Heck is proof natural disasters can strike the same business more than once.

Heck is one of the many businesses in Wakatu Industrial Estate finally getting back on track following the April 2011 floods.

For Ulrich it was a double blow. He had shifted his business to Stoke from Christchurch after the devastating February earthquake. His shop in Victoria St was totally lost and his Burnside factory was damaged.

Ulrich, who is carrying on a 500- year family tradition makes sausages and small goods, could not believe it when he arrived at work in April to find his business was badly damaged once again.

He said 75-80cm of water came through his Stoke premises, ruining stock and damaging expensive heavy specialist machinery from Germany.

A river ran through the neighbouring business Waterblaster Solutions run by Grant and Andrea Sutton. The force of water through the water blaster business blew out a wall into Ulrich's factory.

Nextdoor business Skipper's Choice was also badly flooded.

Ulrich said he had seen news of flooding in Tasman, but thought it must have been over in Motueka somewhere.

"I was shocked, stunned, speechless. ‘Oh, no. Not again'."

Three months on from the flood things were positive and his business had been rebuilt. Floodwater had got into his machinery which he would have to eventually replace from Germany - so every day was a matter of crossing his fingers and hoping it would last another day.

After on-going battles with insurance companies and working around a string of tradesmen to fix their flood damaged buildings things in the estate are getting back to normal.

Ulrich said he had taken things step by step and only had a few small things to do.

He said his landlord Phil Gardiner had been fantastic and Bob Askew from Nelson City Council had also been really helpful.

Ulrich said he had never thought of walking away despite being hit by two natural disasters in two years.

"A German without a plan is not a German."

Blasting way back

Grant and Andrea Sutton of Waterblaster Solutions are finally getting back to some sort of normality after their business was ripped apart by the April flood.

They finally saw the back of tradesmen who finished putting their flood damaged office and workshop back together about a week ago.

There are still finishing touches to do and they are still dealing with their insurance company.

"We will be for while," Grant says.

The business was badly hit in the April floods with about 1m of water running through the workshop.

Customers' waterblasters on the shop floor were written off and the business could not operate for a week due to the extent of damage and the scale of clean up.

They had to take everything out of the packed workshop, clean it and salvage what they could.

Three months on and there is still work to do. The work days are now more manageable and they can take a day off at the weekend.

They have new carpet, freshly painted walls and new office furniture. Walls in the office and workshop had to re rebuilt.

They still have a work backlog and they are dealing with that.

Grant said it was hard to put a value on the cost of the disaster but the insurance claim would be $100,000.

The final cost would be more than that.

"It's an undetermined sum."

While they were pretty much on track there were still frustrations as everything had been moved during the clean-up.

"It's just the stuff that you don't realise. Stuff that's not there that you suddenly think ‘Oh, where's that?' six weeks later."

Grant said they have made big improvements since the first dark days and could now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"We are getting through. We're getting back to it."

Slowly returning to normal

It was only two weeks ago that tradesmen finally laid down carpet and linoleum for Skipper's Choice on Kotua Pl.

After half a metre of water swept through the building following the 100mm of rain which fell in Stoke in April, a lot of stock had to be discarded, putting production at the sauce factory six weeks behind.

"I had to turf out well over half my stock which I'd built up after Christmas," says managing director Clinton Jones.

"Fortunately we had a good group of friends and volunteers and family who helped clean up. But it took a solid seven days to do it all."

While the flooring, skirting boards and whole doors had to be replaced, he's thankful that no money has had to go into replacing any machinery.

"Luckily it [the water level] was just below machinery-damaging height so I dodged a bullet there.

"We were lucky the landlord was really good and he did everything he could to get our factory up and running for us."

Clinton said it had been hard managing production with tradesmen in and out of the building.

For a while he had only been able to make stock two days a week. But things were almost back to normal now, with the office, storeroom and factory all back together.

"The last month or so has been all go, trying to build that back up."

Across the road from Skipper's, Norwest Recycled Timbers also had a lot of work to do following the floods.

Staff were forced to spend days drying planks and sawing off moulded timber after 30cm of water flooded through their roller door and into the workshop.

"You think you've finished but you're not. There's cleaning all the stuff the water leaves behind like the dirt. It's the timber, it's the mould, it's the dampness," says Lisa Morrison.

But Lisa chooses not to stay in the past.

"There's just no point in dwelling on it. There are other people worse off. No one was hurt at the end of the day."