18 Apr 2017

Waikato farmer saves 800 goats from flooding

6:39 pm on 18 April 2017

A Waikato dairy-goat farmer spent the weekend trying to save his farm and his 800 goats from going underwater after a canal overflowed and flooded his land.

Part of Stuart Clarke's goat herd, ready for evacuation from flooding in the Waikato.

Stuart Clarke's goat herd - ready for evacuation from the flooding near Tahuna. Photo: Supplied

Stuart Clarke, who farms in north Waikato on both sides of the Waitoa River near Tahuna, said the floodwater swept through four farms and washed out his only access road.

Mr Clarke said the Matamata-Piako District Council had moved too slowly in fixing the hole on North Road where the water was flooding through.

"The water was getting closer and closer to our goat housing barn and milking shed and there were some frantic phone calls made on late Easter Saturday and Sunday morning to try and get Matamata-Piako to at least block the breach in the road so our goat barn wouldn't go underwater."

The road has since been fixed but on Sunday the council had not yet taken any action, he said - and his family had to make a quick decision to evacuate the 800 goats.

Because the road was cut off and the only access was through a neighbour's paddock, the trucking companies had to assess a culvert with water flowing over it before deciding to go ahead with the goat rescue.

Stuart Clarke's goat herd ready for loading.

Mr Clarke's goat herd ready for loading Photo: Supplied.

"Friends, neighbours and our staff helped us load the goats into the trucks and then Mother Nature decided to throw another 15mm of rain at us, that made the paddock we were going across unpassable for the truck.

"We had to use tractors to drag the trucks across the paddock and then we kept them hitched to the tractors to get the loaded trucks safely back through the flooded water."

The remnants of Cyclone Debbie, which hit New Zealand in the first week of April, were followed by a fierce storm over Easter caused by Cyclone Cook.

The neighbours had pulled together to help his family through the two big storms, Mr Clarke said.

"The response from the local community that we've had has just been absolutely amazing, it's blown me away.

"We've been battling these floodwaters... this is day 13 that we're into now. We're starting to get water back off the property now, we've probably got another week of pumping."

Stuart Clarke's farm underwater.

Mr Clarke's farm underwater Photo: Supplied.

The dairy-goat herd was spread out over four neighbouring dairy-goat farms so they could still be milked and looked after.

It would be at least two weeks before the herd was back on the Clarke farm.

The weeks of wet weather would have a huge impact on the business, Mr Clarke said.

"Basically we're in a 'nil income and high expenditure' phase of our business cycle... which is a wee bit daunting.

"But I've been told what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, so we'll box on."

Mr Clarke said while he did have farm insurance, it was hard to know the financial loss because most of his land was still underwater.

Cyclone Cook's storm hits dairy farmers hard

Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers said dairy farmers on the Napier-Taupo Road appeared to be the hardest hit by the remnants of Cyclone Cook.

Its president, Will Folley, said the soil in the region was already soaked and did not need the extra rain.

"Hawke's Bay wasn't really expecting anything out of that cyclone but we ended up with a lot of wind and a bit more rain."

Farmers had gone from near drought conditions to being "a bit fed up and a bit sick of the rain".

The storm mainly caused wind damage and power cuts, he said.

"Probably the worst issues would be power outages north of Napier with about 20 dairy farmers affected and unable to milk their cows."

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