10 Apr 2017

'The water just kept coming' - Edgecumbe farmer

9:38 am on 10 April 2017

Some farms near Edgecumbe look more like lakes, with dozens of paddocks still completely underwater days after the swollen Rangitāiki wreaked havoc on the area.

Farms around Edgecumbe face a big cleanup, even after the floodwater recedes.

Farms around Edgecumbe face a big cleanup, even after the floodwater recedes. Photo: RNZ / Leon Menzies

While some of the water has drained away, last week's record flooding in Bay of Plenty which prompted the evacuation of almost the entire town of Edgecumbe, would be a setback for many farmers.

Scottie McLeod has been farming in the area for about 40 years.

There was a big clean-up ahead but it could not get underway until all the water was gone, he said.

"We've got to get the water off the paddocks.

"We already have pumps for the land, but we've had to get a whole lot of extra ones coming in.

"Then we've got to fix culverts up and races and things that have all got the metal washed off them, and fences."

More pumps are being on the way to the area.

More pumps are being on the way to the area. Photo: RNZ / Leon Menzies

Mr McLeod said there was one farm that was about 95 percent underwater.

About half of another farm was underwater, but that water had drained away relatively quickly.

And he said the severity of the flooding came as a surprise.

"We knew it was going to rain heavily and we planned for that, put stock to higher ground, but then the bank broke in Edgecumbe, so the thing lasted a lot longer than we ever anticipated and the water just kept coming from different directions."

Some cows taken as far away as Taupō

There had only needed to be a small amount of milk dumping, Farm Source Fonterra said.

There had only needed to be a small amount of milk dumping, Farm Source Fonterra said. Photo: RNZ / Leon Menzies

More than 3500 dairy cows - enough to fill about 600 stock trucks - have been shifted off farms in the area.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president Darryl Jensen said it was a logistical challenge and it required a huge coordination effort.

He said there were at least half a dozen farms where all the stock had to be moved.

Mr Jensen said some of the cows had been moved as far away as Taupō and they had had offers of grazing come in from the wider Bay of Plenty region, Hawke's Bay and Waikato.

Farm Source Fonterra regional head Lisa Payne said tankers had able to pick up a lot of milk, despite the disruption caused by the flooding.

While there were problems accessing farms in Galatea, Ruatoki, Taneatua, Waimana and Edgecumbe, she said milk dumping had been kept to a minimum, with only about 32 farms having to dump milk.

After a couple of bad seasons, Ms Payne said it would be a tough time for farmers.

"This season itself has actually been pretty tough in the Bay of Plenty, we had a very ugly spring, very wet, then it got really dry. It was actually starting to look pretty good, we had some good rain and we had some good pastures growing, but this really has put the final hardship on the end of what was starting to go just a little bit better."

cows in water, Edgecumbe flooding

Photo: RNZ / Leon Menzies

Mr Jensen said there were some big challenges ahead, especially going in to winter.

Remedial work would need to be done to pastures that had been underwater for days and there would be an impact on supplementary feed supplies.

"Normally in autumn we build up feed levels, we've made supplement over the summer. In some areas that supplement has floated away, been destroyed, so it's getting your stock through the winter that will be the biggest issue for a lot of the farmers who are totally devastated," Mr Jensen said.

However, he said farmers in other areas had also offered help with feed supplies.

Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Dairy NZ and the Rural Support Trust would be continuing to provide support to flood-affected farmers, and helping coordinate stock movements and feed deliveries.