8 Jul 2015

Flooded farmer calls for diggers

9:00 am on 8 July 2015

A Whanganui man whose two farms suffered devastating flood damage is calling for more Government funding to help pay for the cost of clearing slips.

The Government has confirmed that farmers in financial strife from the floods in the Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki regions last month will be eligible for rural assistance payments.

Kowhai Park, Whanganui, 22 June

Last month's floods caused huge damage. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

It has also allocated an extra $145,000 for rural support trusts in those regions and increased funding for enhanced taskforce green clean-up teams, from a $250,000 to $500,000.

But Stephen Goldsbury, who has farms at Kaitoke, near Whanganui, and in the Waitotara Valley, in southern Taranaki, said what is most needed right now is more funding for diggers to clear roads and slips.

"I was told, 'Oh the banks are going to be very accommodating and lend you hell of a lot more money,' which is the last thing we need," he said.

"My opinion is we need diggers in and, basically, the Government's got to come across with a substantial assistance in paying for those diggers to do the work - we'll do a lot of work ourselves, but just to get the silt and the tracks and everything open, we need assistance, it's as simple as that.

"It's not just right now, it's really next year's income and production is going to be down so dramatically that it's one of the reasons we just can't borrow any more money."

Mr Goldsbury estimates that slips have ruined 20 percent of the land on his Whanganui farm and he still cannot get on to his Waitotara farm.

The Taranaki Rural Support Trust agrees diggers are needed to clear slips, but it said getting the machinery to properties damaged by the floods is a big challenge.

The trust, along with Federated Farmers and councils in the Taranaki region, met yesterday to discuss the worst affected areas and decide where help should be sent first.

A Taranaki Rural Support trustee, Joe Clough, said most of the hill country, east of Stratford in Taranaki, suffered damage and remains too wet to get diggers in to clear slips.

Mr Clough said although most people could now access their farms, getting stock feed, trucks and diggers to some places is impossible.

"There are certainly farmers saying that they can't do anything until they get a digger on their place and there are certainly farmers that are waiting for diggers.

"But there are also issues of getting the diggers into some of these places - the roads are not robust enough to support the cartage of them into places, or else sometimes, even on the farms themselves, the land needs to dry out to a certain extent before the diggers can even do their work."

"So yes there are farms that require diggers that can't get them, but that's certainly one of the priorities we're trying to work on is making sure the farmers that need diggers, that can use them, do get them."

Mr Clough says the trust is working with councils to get damaged roads fixed in areas that need it the most.

He said there would also be three BBQs within the region over the next two weeks to help people to get off their farms, catch up with neighbours and hear from experts regarding soil health, silt and erosion repair, animal health and feed budgets.

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