Weather forces farmers to dump milk

22:32, Jan 03 2013

Fifty West Coast dairy farms have been forced to dump large amounts of milk as the impact of the South Island's weather woes continue to be felt.

Heavy rain washed away about 40 metres of road on the north side of the Wanganui River bridge in South Westland on Wednesday.

The washout forced the closure of State Highway 6, the main road along the West Coast, and cut a key fibre-optic cable that meant up to 1000 West Coast homes lost internet and phone access.

Dairy farmers were badly hit. Westland Milk Products general manager of operations Bernard May said about 50 dairy farms had been forced to dump "a fair percentage" of milk because they could not transport it via Hokitika.

Communications were difficult in the area and the company was flying in a representative by helicopter to speak to farmers.

May said a fleet of milk tankers was driving into the area to take milk to other South Island facilities, with some milk expected to be collected overnight.


Yesterday, the NZ Transport Agency was still developing a repair plan for the Wanganui River.

NZTA West Coast senior asset manager Mark Pinner said contractors were using rocks in an attempt to redirect the river, but floodwaters had prevented structural engineers from inspecting the bridge.

It would be several days before it was safe to reopen the road, he said.

Phone and internet services were restored to residents yesterday after provider Chorus put a temporary cable over the river.

All other West Coast roads closed by slips and flooding have since reopened, except State Highway 65 between Murchison and Springs.

Tourists stranded in Arthur's Pass on Wednesday night were able to leave after flooded sections of State Highway 73 reopened to traffic.

Czech visitor Jan Pleskac, among motorists stuck in the township on Wednesday night, was forced to turn back and take shelter after the section of highway he was driving on was flooded.

"There was a small queue of cars in front of the water. Some of them tried to pass and succeeded, but the smaller cars with the lower gears got stuck in the middle of the water there," he said.

After the cars were pulled out of the water, officials ordered the motorists to turn back to Arthur's Pass.

A group of Nelson trampers had to be airlifted out of Kahurangi National Park after a landslip.

The Nelson-Marlborough rescue helicopter picked up four trampers from the park yesterday morning after they were trapped in the area late on Wednesday.

The Press