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102 Russell Street, Hastings
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The aftermath: The loss of half of New Zealand's ability to manufacture apple trays in a fire last week has the industry racing to find alternative supplies.
By DIANE JOYCE
Blaze a packaging headache for fruit growers
The race is on to find enough trays for the
upcoming apple and pear picking season
after the company that produces 50 per
cent of New Zealand's supply went up in
The industry uses about 90 million trays
in an average season.
Hawk Packaging in Hastings burst into
flames at 7.30pm last Tuesday night,
destroying everything except the office
The loss of trays already manufactured
and the halving of production capability
over the season meant the industry had to
find a plan B'' very quickly, said Pipfruit
New Zealand chief executive Peter Beaven.
On Friday he said that the season run-
ning about 10 days late had turned out to
It means we've got some lead-in time, it
would have been much worse if it had
happened as picking started,'' Mr Beaven
Picking would normally start about
February 10 but abnormal spring weather
had pushed that out to about February 20.
About 60 per cent of New Zealand's pip
fruit crop is grown in Hawke's Bay.
Pipfruit NZ is in talks with the second
New Zealand manufacturer, Huhtamaki,
which believed it could cover the shortfall
by increasing the number of shifts at its
It also had a factory in Australia that
could potentially increase production if
required, Mr Bevan said.
Another potential solution was importing
trays from overseas.
Pipfruit New Zealand had received calls
from manufacturers in Thailand and
China, and previous imports had come
Hawk Packaging owner and managing
director Tim Combs did not want to com-
ment on efforts to replace stock.
On Friday a company spokesperson said
those matters were still being worked
An investigation into how the fire started
at the Tomoana factory got under way last
It was the third fire on the site within
the last 12 months, the second in the same
paper storage area, said fire service assist-
ant area manager Nigel Hall.
In the latest and biggest blaze, fames
leapt more than 20 metres into the air,
shooting out embers the size of footballs'',
The crews did really well, some of them
worked 14 hours without proper breaks.
They stopped the spread.
At one stage flames were over the top of
the building next door,'' Mr Hall said.
At the height of the blaze 20 fire engines
were on the scene, from as far afield as
Mr Hall said the priority was to protect
neighbouring commercial buildings and
homes across the road.
About 16 people had been evacuated
from homes directly across the street, and
buildings and homes had been hosed down
to protect them from the searing heat, he
Neighbour Brenda Buist said the fire
had been huge, hot and frightening''.
Everyone was out there, the heat was
Concerns had been raised over the
amount of paper stored on the site.
On the morning after the fire, Mr Combs
told media he was aware the company was
storing its packaging too closely'' to the
side of the building.
The company had already planned to
shift to a new site in Whakatu in July, he
said, in part to be able to store products
more efficiently than we currently have''.
He said the nature of the product, which
made trays from waste paper, meant the
business was susceptible to fire.
Hawk Packaging was insured and none
of the 55 staff working at the site would
lose their jobs, he said.
Ash spreads across city, page 13
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