6 Oct 2017

Farmers consider use for quake-damaged land

8:59 pm on 6 October 2017

North Canterbury farmers are looking at what other uses their quake-damaged land could have, including native planting, beekeeping and tourism.

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Sheep and beef farmer Henry Pinckney on his quake-damaged land. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

November's 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused extensive land damage to some farms in the Hurunui, Marlborough and Kaikōura districts, with some farmers no longer being able to graze stock in places.

Now a community lead working group including farmers, local council and industry representatives is waiting on government funding to explore what future uses the land might have.

Sheep and beef farmer Henry Pinckney owns 1400ha of land along the Inland Road in Hurunui District.

He said the quake had caused slips, cracking through paddocks and hill-faces as well as damage to fences and water lines on his property.

Earthquake damage on Henry Pinckney's farm.

Earthquake damage on Henry Pinckney's farm. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Mr Pinckney said he also lost sheep down cracks made by the quake.

"You could smell the decaying stock after about three days [after the quake] ... so that wasn't so nice," he said.

Mr Pinckney said in order to let his land properly recover, he had stopped grazing stock in some areas and was doing planting work to re-stabilise the ground so loose debris and sediment didn't slip into the river.

"[The damage] is significant, there has been a big change [to the land] that is going to affect the way we farm into the future and we're not alone ... there are a number of farms like this."

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Grant Barbara said he had lost the odd cattle beast that had become wedged in a crack created by the quake. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Another sheep and beef farmer in the area, Grant Barbara, said the quake damage to his property meant he was also going to have to make some changes.

Mr Barbara said he had lost the odd cattle beast that had become wedged in a crack created by the quake, so he had stopped putting them in some paddocks.

"So I think there are probably some pretty good cases to be looked at in terms of whether it's in forestry ... or do we let some of the mānuka that we've got come back and look at doing something with bees?"

In May, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced a $5 million fund to help farmers and growers who have quake-damaged land look at their options.

From the initiative, $4 million was set aside for community lead projects.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley said a group including farmers, local council and industry representatives had applied for funding to carry out recovery research in the Kaikōura, Marlborough and Hurunui Districts.

Mr Dalley said they were still negotiating a contract with MPI and had not started the work nearly one year on from the quake.

"There's geo-tech work to do, there is economic analysis to do ... to understand the viability of whatever people see as a good option for them.

"None of that work has started, we don't even have a contract with the ministry for that funding and so it is still going to be some time before anything actually happens that can assist the farmers, that's the frustration," he said.

An MPI spokesperson, Justine Gilliland, said it aimed to have all contracts for community-led projects awarded by 1 September.

But she said they had been ambitious with that target and they now expected to start signing some contracts this week, allowing some groups to begin work.

"The focus that we have here is very much about long term recovery, MPI provided relief in the immediate aftermath through some other mechanisms and this fund was designed about looking to the long term."

Ms Gilliland said a fund to help individual farmers get up to $5000 worth of professional advice on damage to their properties was already open and she encouraged them to make use of the service.

You can hear more about the Kaikōura earthquake recovery on Insight this Sunday morning.

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