11 Sep 2013

Farmers count cost of violent storm

2:40 pm on 11 September 2013

Long-established farmers in mid and north Canterbury are describing the wind storm that battered the region on Tuesday and overnight as the worst they have experienced.

The storm knocked out power to thousands of rural properties and has caused widespread damage.

David Clark, who farms west of Ashburton in mid Canterbury, says there has been extensive damage to farm buildings, irrigation equipment and shelter belts.

He says his farm has lost 40 or 50 trees and has been lucky not to lose any irrigators but about a dozen irrigators from other farms in his immediate area have been blown over.

"We had a roof partially blown off a new shed last night and then another roof started to lift," he says.

Mr Clark says the wind was so ferocious he had to sit straw bales on the roofs to hold them down.

He says it will take weeks of work to clean up all the damage.

One of the many issues for farmers is stock becoming mixed up and wandering due to fences being brought down and electric fences put out of action by lightning strikes.

Getting cows milked is also a challenge for those still without power. Many farmers have missed two milkings after losing power supplies to dairy sheds.

Federated Farmers dairy chair Willy Leferink, who is among those affected, says local power companies are aware of the urgency to get milking done and are trying to get dairy farms reconnected as quickly as possible.

He says farmers are sharing generators and are working together to help each other out.

Mr Leferink says farmers needing generators or who can supply them can contact Angela Hogg at the Federated Farmers office in Ashburton on 03 307 8145 or 0800 327 646.

Processing plant loses power

The Synlait dairy company says it lost power at its Dunsandel plant at 8.30pm on Tuesday during the severe weather.

The power came back on at 2am and Synlait expects its milk processing plant will be fully operational again early on Wednesday evening.

The company says widespread power cuts and blocked roads in the region are affecting its suppliers, and it is working with its farmers to ensure normal collection resumes as quickly as possible.

Federated Farmers mid Canterbury president Chris Allen says the latest advice from local power company EA Networks is that it could take more than a day to get power restored to some areas.

He says another looming issue for farmers is stock water supplies because many farmers have moved to deep water pumps, which depend on power.

"They need to have not just a generator that's big enough to drive the dairy shed, they have to have enough power available to start up the irrigation pumps for stock water," he says.

Mr Allen says people needing help can also call their regional Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.