Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lake Grassmere saltworks picks up tab for added freight costs

A Marlborough saltworks was turned into a giant salt shaker by the earthquake, but the real impact on the business has been the closure of the main highway.
The huge salt stacks at the Lake Grassmere saltworks are a distinctive sight for motorists travelling on State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Christchurch.
The earthquake caused cracks to form in the piles, each of which can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of salt, but in terms of actual damage, the saltworks got off lightly.

Dominion Salt site operations manager Euan McLeish talks through the harvest process at the Lake Grassmere saltworks.
Dominion Salt site operations manager Euan McLeish said operations were back to 90 per cent the week of the earthquake, and had fully resumed the following week.

Remedial work to fix the damage was about two-thirds of the way done, and it was minor compared to the Seddon earthquake four years ago, McLeish said.
What had proved a problem was the closure of SH1 south of Clarence, along with the Main North Line railway, both of which had been key freight routes for the company.
"That has had the single biggest effect on the business and is operations from a financial point of view," McLeish said.
"We're really hanging out for the highway to be re-opened because in the meantime we're picking up the incremental increase in freight costs," he said.
The added drive time on the new inland route between Blenheim and Christchurch through Lewis Pass, meant an additional charge, which Dominion Salt was picking up instead of passing on to its customers.

The Seddon earthquake, centred far closer to the saltworks, damaged office buildings which were in the process of being rebuilt when the November earthquake struck.
However, the new building, which included a cafeteria and a laboratory, stood up well in the most recent event, and would still be finished within the next two to three weeks, McLeish said.
The on-going aftershocks had been trying for some of the 45 fulltime staff employed at the saltworks, many of who lived in the badly affected communities of Flaxbourne, Seddon and Ward.
McLeish said prior to Christmas there had been daily briefings regarding the earthquake, its impact on people and their families and the effect on the saltworks.
Instead of giving its customers presents, as they usually did, the company decided to donate $4000 of supermarket vouchers to affected people in the surrounding communities.
This season was still on track for an average harvest, in March, despite an exceptionally rainy spring, which diluted the brine in the 22 crystallising ponds, making it more difficult to form salt.
"It won't be a record harvest, but because of all the improvements to our systems our here, even though we've had a horrible spring, we should still end up with an average harvest," he said.
An  average harvest for the saltworks was around 76,000 tonnes.
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