Cedenco Nelson general manager Geoff Hunter in a bare factory after they pushed the start dates of processing to conserve water. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Ten weeks’ worth of water

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Nelson has just ten weeks’ worth of reserves in its main water supply as the extent of the summer’s drought starts to impact on local businesses.

Nelson has had 14mm of rain since the start of the year, the driest January and February on record which has prompted stage three water restrictions, with Tasman District at stage four.

At a Nelson City Council workshop last week, councillors were told that if the city did not get any rain, its reserves in the Maitai Dam would run out in May.

One of Nelson’s largest water-using businesses, Cedenco in Stoke, says the restrictions are having a huge roll-on effect and will hit employees in the pocket from later this month.

Cedenco, which took over ENZAfoods in April last year, have had restrictions imposed as part of Tasman’s Stage four water rationing. Its general manager Geoff Hunter says they have already pushed out the starting date for their Fruit Ingredients Factory which makes products such as apple sauce, puree and ‘slice and dice’ apple products.

The delay will have a roll-on effect for their whole business with factories such as juice products not being able to start on-time either.

“We had a meeting with new staff on Monday informing them of the delays to start dates but if nothing happens by later in the month, we will need to look at more drastic measures,” says Geoff.

The factory, which employs 70 staff, was due to begin on Monday next week but will now wait until March 18, but Geoff says if there is no rain before then, they will need to look at options on how to best run the factory.

“Instead of running 24/7 we may be restricted to 24/4 to stay within our limits. This impacts heavily on staff and their wages.”

Geoff says while most of their water comes from Tasman, they have been able to supplement some from Nelson.

“We have an independent come in every day and read our water meters to make sure we stay within our limits.”

He says there is potential of a huge flow on effect of the restrictions.

“We don’t want to buy the apples if they are just going to sit on the yard and rot, so they may have to leave apples on the trees which will mean the orchards can’t hire the staff either, so yeah, the potential there is very real for it to have a huge impact on the whole sector.”

A Port Nelson spokesperson says they are also taking all reasonable measures to be considerate with water use.

“We are minimising this as much as we can to play our part towards regional water conservation.”