Gas supply review threat to basic food supplies

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2013

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Bread and milk could disappear from supermarket shelves during crises if food companies are removed from an emergency gas supply list.

A provision which allowed producers of bread, cereal and milk to receive limited gas during outages looks set to be wiped during a policy shake-up.

The Gas Industry Company review is designed to cull some 370 businesses from its essential services list.

During outages, hospitals, mortuaries, emergency services and water services will be prioritised with a limited gas supply.

But food companies are arguing their products are also essential for human life.

Fresh foods were hit hard during the October 2011 Maui pipeline disruption which lasted five days.

The gas line was cut by a landslide, affecting supply to Auckland and Waikato, where most of New Zealand's food companies are located. Supermarkets ran out of bread and $100 million worth of milk was dumped during the five-day outage.

Had it gone on longer, the country would have experienced rationing not seen since World War Two.

"So much food production is still dependent on gas, and so much of that production is in the Auckland and Waikato regions," Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said.

Global crises like the 2000 fuel protests in Britain, Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans and the 2010 and 2011 Queensland floods have proven food security is integrally linked to civil unrest, Rich said.

"To dismiss access to food as a degree of inconvenience ignores the social consequences of not appropriately addressing food security as an essential part of emergency management planning."

The review of the critical contingency management regulations follows the Maui outage.

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- Sunday Star Times

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