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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Portaloos go unused

Portaloos go unused

Last updated 15:27 19/03/2011
Christchurch is temporarily the portable toilet capital of New Zealand, but many are going unused as people turn to the smaller chemical toilets, says one toilet supplier.

Civil Defence has ordered nearly 3000 portable toilets for the streets following the damage done to the sewage system in the February 22 earthquake.

Most of the portable toilets have come from around the country but hundreds have also been brought in from Australia and the US. There are now nearly 1800 on the streets.

The need was desperate in the days after the quake, and earlier this week Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the supply of portable toilets was still stretched.

But Diane Dakin, from Dakin Group, the only manufacturer of the toilets in New Zealand, said that while they were extremely busy, there was not really a shortage of portable toilets as they still had some in their yard.

"We have a lot out on the street and they are not getting used."

She said people were using the smaller chemical toilets -- Civil Defence has delivered nearly 17,000 of the 41,000 ordered -- but dumping the waste in the portable toilets in the street, rather than the designated chemical toilet waste dump points.

"We have to put up with it," she said.

The "worst nightmare" was people pulling the toilets up to their driveways or back yards.

"We get irate calls from people saying we are not cleaning the toilets, but they have gone and hidden it."

However, a lot of the stolen toilets eventually turned up back in the street as only way to empty them is with a vacuum tanker, she said.

Port-a-loo's Auckland branch manager Steve Coulter said a big effort was made to truck 644 of his company's portaloos, plus 300 it brought in from Australia, to the quake-stricken city.

Christchurch was putting pressure on the company. "We have an event in Hawke's Bay this weekend, we have got the Hamilton 400 coming up, so we need to pluck all those toilets out of Hawke's Bay."

While Christchurch's portable toilets were sourced from around the world, Mr Coulter said the bigger disaster in Japan would not mean Christchurch's toilets would need to be sent there.

"Anything going to Japan would come straight out of the factories in China or bring them in from the States."

The global recession had hit the portable toilet industry hard in the US, and Mr Coulter knew of one company that had nearly 9 hectares of portaloos sitting idle.

Following the Haiti quake last year a large number of portable toilets were sent there, but there was no-one to clean them and they quickly became useless, Mr Coulter said.

"A toilet is only as good as how clean it is."

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