7 Jul 2015

Flood-hit farmers wary of further rain

2:06 pm on 7 July 2015

Farmers in the flood-ravaged Whanganui and Southern Taranaki regions are anxiously watching the weather.

Although a heavy rain warning for that part of the country has now been lifted, any rain at this stage brings with it the threat of further slips on land made unstable by June's flooding.

That potential threat adds to the woes of people still trying to get access to and from their farms.

Waitotara valley

The Waitotara Valley - pictured at the height of last month's flooding Photo: SUPPLIED

Stephen Goldsbury has farmed at Kaitoke, near Whanganui, for about 20 years. For more than 50 years, he also farmed up the Waitotara Valley in southern Taranaki.

He said the devastation in both areas went far beyond anything he had seen before.

"The Kaitoke farm has been absolutely hammered with slips. I can't move stock around. Every culvert's gone, boundary fences have gone.

"It's a nightmare just trying to get around to feed stock and 20 percent of my farm, I consider, is dirt. It's just horrific. Whole hillsides have absolutely collapsed and yet they're just easy hills."

Mr Goldsbury said the council had managed to clear about three quarters of the road up the Waitotara Valley for 4WD vehicles, and was doing a fantastic job, but he still could not get on to his own farm about halfway up the valley.

"I've been farming there since 1963, so I've seen about half a dozen good floods and this is the granddaddy of them all while I've been farming there - with water reaching the window sills of the house. The destruction is just unbelievable."

He said he could not get past the gate into the farm, even on foot, because the silt left by the flooding was so deep.

"And that's over a fortnight ago and I've got stock down one end of the farm and I can't even move them to spread them out.

"My next-door neighbour below me has lost a lot of stock. I've heard they've lost 300 lambs and I've heard bigger figures than that. Of course you don't know until you've actually done a count."

Mr Goldsbury said there would also be a huge amount of land lost into the Waitotara River from slumping.

Some farmers eligible for Rural Assistance Payments

The Government has confirmed that lower North Island farmers struggling financially as a result of recent flooding will be eligible for Rural Assistance Payments.

It follows the Government's declaration of a medium-scale adverse event in the Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki regions.

Rural Assistance Payments, equivalent to Jobseeker Support, cover essential living costs in cases when farmers have lost their incomes from adverse weather events.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said local rural support trusts could help to organise payments for those in need.

The Government has allocated an extra $145,000 for the trusts in the flood-hit areas.

It has also increased funding for Enhanced Taskforce Green clean-up teams, from $250,000 to $500,000.

But farmers said what was most needed now was more funding for diggers to clear roads and slips.