26 Feb 2024

Cyclone-damaged wool scourer 'very close' to full opening after $50m rebuild

1:05 pm on 26 February 2024
A view of the cordoned off industrial area from McLeod Road, Awatoto, Napier.

A view of the cordoned off industrial area from McLeod Road, Awatoto, Napier, following Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

WoolWorks New Zealand is shaking off a challenging and costly year, as it turns a corner in its Cyclone Gabrielle recovery.

The wool scourer's Awatoto site near Napier was severely damaged by the cyclone in February last year, needing a near-full rebuild with a price tag of around $50 million.

Its smaller sites in Clive and Timaru have been running full tilt for months to work through the backlog of bales of stock carried over from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, on top of the bales stored up with the closure of Awatoto.

But WoolWorks New Zealand president Nigel Hales said it was making great progress on the rebuild.

"It's looking a lot better than it was at this time last year actually," he said. "We're back up and running and we've been up and running now for more than three weeks, so it's been quite a task to get ourselves to this point."

He said floodwaters were two metres high in the Awatoto building during the cyclone, so a large amount of equipment was destroyed.

"Pretty much everything below the two metres has had to be replaced, which we've done, and we've been very lucky we've been able to import in equipment pretty quickly from overseas to help us out."

He said the total backlog of wool should be cleared later in the year.

"The South Island's cleared and it's been cleared now for around a month. We've managed to clear the North Island the best that we can.

"We're still sending some wool down to the South Island to just keep things in balance here in the North Island while we're trialling the Awatoto plant as it's coming back online.

"We've got one plant working at Awatoto, and had it not been for an outbreak of Covid this week, we would have had the second plant up and running, so we're very close."

Hales said the company was planning a large industry event to celebrate the full opening of the Awatoto site in April.