Silver Fern Farms Takes Extensive Action To Restore Taw’Iti Stream

By Silver Fern Farms

Silver Fern Farms Takes Extensive Action To Restore Taw’Iti Stream

"Posted" 24/02/2021

Silver Fern Farms remains fully committed to rectifying the impact caused by the ammonia incident at its Hawera site in February 2020, and has taken extensive action to significantly reduce the risk of future events, and to genuinely enhance the environments it works in. 

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says it acknowledges and completely accepted the ecological and social/cultural impact that was caused as a result of the accident. 

“We are deeply disappointed this has happened given our commitment to our environment and the stream restoration work we had carried out on the Taw’iti stream.

“We have taken the event very seriously, have involved stakeholders and above all else have done everything possible to make sure we learn from the events, and put right as best we can what has occurred.”

“We formally extend our gratitude to Ngāti Ruanui in relation to their willingness to support us so that we can put this right in a way that respects the Taw’iti stream and the community.”

Silver Fern Farms has put in place significant actions across its business to lift standards of ammonia system management. Expenditure on ammonia system and stormwater protection upgrades has exceeded $5 million dollars across the company. In excess of $2 million dollars has been invested at Hawera.

“Our investment at Hawera has significantly changed how stormwater is managed. This work commenced in September 2020 and will significantly exceed the previous resource consent requirements, resulting in a much-improved stormwater control system on the site.”

The new control system will be capable of testing the stormwater and automatically shuts off a valve (and therefore ceasing discharge) should any issues be detected. The stormwater would then be pumped into a holding pond of 800m3 which will provide enough capacity to hold any contaminated water while any problem is being resolved.  This will significantly reduce the risk of any future stream contamination.

Stream restoration has also been a focus for Silver Fern Farms.

In consultation with Ngāti Ruanui, an environmental services consultancy was commissioned to carry out the assessments and assist with an appropriate eel re-population programme. In January this year the environmental consultancy worked closely with iwi to undertake surveys of the eel population in Taw’iti Stream. 

The survey found a significant number of juvenile eels and evidence of food to support them in the stream. This gives confidence that it will be possible to assist with the repopulation of the stream and to progress with opportunities for the restoration or creation of freshwater habitats, or the remediation of fish passage barrier structures that would allow fish to reach habitats. 

“We remain committed to continuing to engage with Ngāti Ruanui and provide assistance as we progress this work.”

Other changes include:

  • The establishment of an Ammonia Reference Group to look at all improvements that can be made in relation to the all Silver Fern Farms’ sites and over-seeing the development of systems and procedures.
  • Developing Site Enhancement Plans for all 14 of our sites. These plans are intended to provide a road map for enhancing the natural environment around our sites. Five plans have been developed so far with an estimated $470,000 worth of projects, including a planting component of $253,000.
  • Committed to Taw’iti Stream Enhancement plan in 2021.
  • The creation of 10 new risk roles into the company. These roles are focused on identifying and ensuring controls for managing risks (including ammonia).
  • Commissioned an independent review into the guidance around appropriate and best practices for ammonia storage and use (including emergency practices) available to the New Zealand refrigeration industry. Which has informed changes to ammonia management across the business.
  • Shared our findings and learnings from with others in the refrigeration industry.

“We are confident that the actions undertaken will significantly reduce the risk of such a discharge happening in the future – not only at Hawera but at its other sites in New Zealand. And we remain committed to genuine enhancement of the environments in which we operate.”