Businesses reeling after flood damage

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 18th January 2011

Restaurants, supermarkets and manufacturers across Australia are picking up after flood damage this week, assessing damage and beginning the cleanup.

Dairy giant Murray Goulburn’s Rochester milk processing plant, which manufactures mainly cheese and milk powders, was flooded on Friday, with the site remaining closed and milk now being transported to Murray Goulburn Cobram and other locations for processing.

A number of Coles and Woolworths supermarkets were flooded, with 8 Coles stores in the Brisbane and Ipswich regions remaining closed.

In Victoria, the Hazeldene chicken hatchery reported that around 300,000 chickens drowned on Saturday at its Serpentine farm when sheds flooded in only an hour. Hazledene’s Chicken’s Vicki Gaudion told the ABC she estimates the loss will cost the company up to $5 million.

“On Saturday afternoon I received a call from the SES saying it was only two hours away, and we still believed we could have saved the farm but it was just too big,” she said.

“We had it coming from three fronts, from Bendigo, from the overflowing Goulburn Murray channel, and also from Serpentine. So we had no hope of saving the farm.”

McDonalds Australia announced that most of its restaurants were open, and that stock and normal trading were priorities.

“The majority of our restaurants in Queensland are open and trading, however, some restaurants are offering limited menus. We are working closely with our suppliers and endeavouring to provide stock to those restaurants that need it. We are working hard to continue normal trading in all of our affected restaurants as soon as possible,” the company said.

Murray Goulburn said the cleanup of its Rochester facility would be carefully assessed as floodwaters receded, with the process likely to take a number of weeks, but reassured customers and farmers that milk pickup would continue wherever possible and that the company’s brands, including popular Devondale, would not be noticeably impacted.

Coles said it was working around the clock to get food back on the shelves 150 affected Queensland supermarkets with the assistance of the Queensland Government, especially the 50 stores isolated by flood waters.

Coles said they expected a huge surge in demand as thousands of residents return to their homes to begin the long clean-up process.

Three more stores are expected to reopen over the coming weekend, but other stores – such as the Coles Emerald location – are not expected to open for at least two months, with a temporary store at the Emerald Police Citizens Youth Centre taking its place from today.

Coles managing director, Ian McLeod, said that at their worst, the floods inundated four Coles stores, closed a further 11, and cut food supply to over 50 stores across the state.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to get food into our northern Queensland stores, with about 120 tons airlifted into areas including the Cairns, Townsville and Bundaberg regions. Nearly 500 tons of food have been sent into FNQ by truck, and over 1000 tons will be leaving Sydney by ship, destined for Townsville and Cairns,” he said.