Farmers appeal for help in getting back to production

6:16 pm on 10 September 2010

Continuing aftershocks around Canterbury are leaving farmers in limbo, with no way to establish how much damage has been done to the land or how much it will cost to fix.

As well as massive fissures in the earth, there are other major problems like damage to irrigation lines.

Federated Farmers dairy section chair for North Canterbury, Kieran Stone, told Nine to Noon that about 150 farms in the Canterbury area are affected, and need to get back to production as soon as possible.

He says farmers want a decent assistance package, and are looking to the Government for help.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says because the land is still moving it's impossible to accurately estimate the damage, or decide how to fix it.

Darfield meeting

One of the farmers who attended a meeting in Darfield on Thursday, Mel Arnold, says half the fences on his property are wrecked and paddocks are destroyed.

He says heavy machinery will have to be brought in to level the land, which will cost thousands of dollars.

About 300 people at the meeting were told by the Earthquake Commission and insurers FMG that damage to fences is not covered in all policies, and cracks in the ground are not covered at all.

Several farmers asked whether the Government would lend a hand.

The Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, says the Government will need to know more about the nature of the cracks before any decision can be made.

Canterbury University geologist Mark Quigley told the meeting that he has surveyed the entire fault scar and the biggest aftershocks are occurring on the tips of the fault, which is causing the ground to creep and open up again.

Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English says the federation will hold regular social functions for farmers in the area to keep their spirits high.

Delay testing irrigation systems, farmers told

The rural emergency response co-ordinator appointed to oversee recovery efforts on Canterbury farms says part of his group's job will be to examine the cracks in the ground, how they can be repaired and how much it will cost.

Allan Baird is heading the Regional Rural Recovery Group which includes MAF and other agriculture sector representatives as well as the Insurance Council and banks.

Mr Baird says the group is assessing damage such as potential contamination of water bores, silt in wells and damage to pumps and irrigation systems.

He is warning farmers to wait until the tremors stop before they test their irrigation pumps.

Mr Baird says farmers should avoid turning on irrigator pumps until the after shocks have stopped to allow the aquifers to settle and to reduce the risk of damage to the pump.