6 Apr 2017

Flooded Whakatane farm: 'We're all just stuck'

1:42 pm on 6 April 2017

A farm stretching along the banks of the bursting Whakatane River is under water, a herd of 400 cows is stranded and a farm worker is cut off by floodwaters.

Bruce Fowl's farm near Whakatane, under floodwaters.

Worker's house on Bruce Fowell's flooded farm, near Whakatane. Photo: Supplied / Bruce Fowell

A state of emergency has been declared for the district as the Whakatane River reached its highest ever level of 8.3m and put Bruce Fowell's farm under water.

The nearby town of Edgecumbe has been indundated as the Rangitaiki River burst its banks and a jetboats and farm vehicles are being used to evacuate the town.

Mr Fowell's dairy farm is by the Pekatahi bridge, about 10 minutes drive from Whakatane.

"About six o'clock this morning we had to shift the cows because ... we didn't have any paddocks that were out of the water. We shifted the cows to a little bit higher paddock but they're still standing in water."

Follow RNZ's live coverage and find out what you need to know here.

He will have to finish his milking season and dry off the herd because he can't feed or milk the cows, he said.

"We just can't get them out, they'd have to swim and with too much current we're likely to lose them. We've got no grass out of the water so we can't even get feed out to them."

He's been on the land, which stretches along the banks of the Whakatane river, for 30 years, following on from his father who moved there in 1947.

"We're used to it, we just put up with it and get on with it once the water goes. We just look after the stock and get the fences and everything back as quick as we can."

His 99-year-old father had never seen a flood this big before in the area, he said.

Bruce Fowl's farm near Whakatane, under floodwaters.

Bruce Fowell had to shift his cows to a higher paddock and can't get them out while floodwaters are high. Photo: Supplied / Bruce Fowell

Farm worker stranded

Mr Fowell said his farm worker is cut off by the flood and has to wait for the water level to drop to get out.

"He's actually on a little island and the water is under his house. He had to wade through the water to shift the cows this morning.

"We're cut off from the farm and from where the worker lives... We're all just stuck."

Mr Fowell said his neighbours' houses and farms were also flooded.

The river is slowly receding, but because it is tidal they have to wait for the tide to go out before they can assess the damage, said Mr Fowell. "We've got about 106 hectares here, and there's nothing left."

Bruce Fowl's farm near Whakatane, under floodwaters.

Neighbours' farms are also flooded. Photo: Supplied / Bruce Fowell

  • As it happened: River continues to flow into Edgecumbe
  • 'Wall of water': A night in exile for Edgecumbe
  • Edgecumbe flooding: what you need to know
  • Extreme weather a taste of climate effects