7 Apr 2017

Flood leaves farm a swamp

3:04 pm on 7 April 2017

A farmer on the banks of the bursting Rangitāiki River says at least half of his Galatea farm is ruined by the flood, with water still flowing over his land.

On Thursday morning the Rangitāiki River burst its banks down stream from the Matahina Dam. A state of emergency was declared for the Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe, which was then evacuated.

About 35 kilometres up stream from the dam lies Galatea, where dairy farmer Roy Allen lives.

Floating silage bales at Roy Allen's Galatea farm.

Floating silage bales at Roy Allen's Galatea farm. Photo: Supplied

When the heavy rain started on Wednesday night Mr Allen went straight out to move the cows.

"We came back the next morning and looked and the water was just... you couldn't even see the top of the fence posts."

He said because the river was still running over most of his farm he had no idea how much damage had been done.

"You can see broken wires, then there are culverts you can't even see, then there is the farm race, which probably has big holes in it so if you went to drive down it in a tractor you could sink into a great big hole that you wouldn't even see.

"If I look either way I can see the same problems - silage bales in the river, I can see driftwood in heaps and there is a terrible smell in the air, just that swampy mud smell."

picture of a flooded farm at Galatea.

Photo: Supplied

The cows would be dried off early from milking because he could not get enough feed to them. Half of his grass was under water.

"For a small farm like me it's going to be $10,000 plus (of damage)... it hasn't really sunk in yet, we haven't seen the real damage so we're a bit apprehensive," Mr Allen said.

Hundreds of farm animals moved

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president Darryl Jensen said farmers had been helping to evacuate families and animals this morning after a canal burst its banks on Gow Road.

He said the farming community has been busy helping others and so far there's been no stock losses in the region.

"Farmers have been pro active trying at least to get stock to higher ground. There was one farmer close to Edgecumbe yesterday where we were able to get 600 cows off because the whole farm went underwater.

"There was another farm this morning where 500 animals had to be removed and they've gone away to grazing... we're just dealing with things on a case by case basis," said Mr Jensen.

Mr Jensen said Federated Farmers had put a call out for help over the local radio station and had a great response.

"We've got people from out of the area that are coming in, you can imagine you've got a farm with 500 cattle to be trucked - they want plenty of hands on deck to help with the operation."

Roy Allen's farm under water.

Roy Allen's farm under water. Photo: Supplied

The Young Farmers club is also pitching in to help, and Mr Jensen said it could be a week or so before the water covering farms recedes.

"It could even be weeks because it's such a low lying flat plain of land and all the water has to come out of the rivers, into canal systems and go out to sea.

"The longer the water stays on the pastures the more damage will be done because the grass will end up dying, we want that water off the farms as quickly as possible but there is a lot more to come down from the hills, which is not helping the problem."

Number of insurance claims expected to rise

FMG Insurance said it had already had over 100 claims from the floods.

Chief Operations Officer Conrad Wilkshire said he expected that number to rise significantly over the coming weeks once clients had a chance to assess their properties for damage.

Mr Wilkshire said so far most claims were for flood damage to buildings and contents, and there were also claims for wind damage to farm buildings.

He said FMG had begun calling clients in some of the hardest hit regions to make sure they were okay and to offer any advice.