14 Feb 2018

Bay of Plenty farmers bracing for more bad weather

3:10 pm on 14 February 2018

Farmers in the eastern Bay of Plenty are bracing for more bad weather next week after torrential rain on Monday caused some rivers to overflow their banks.

Flooded farmland near Ōpōtiki.

Flooded farmland near Ōpōtiki. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Many farms have flooded paddocks with stock moved to higher ground.

Farmers say a lot of the water will drain away in the next few days but they are very concerned about how their water-sodden land will cope with more heavy rain.

Hemi Ruha farms just south of Ōpōtiki, next to the Ōtara River.

After Monday's heavy rain, half of his 102ha dairy farm went underwater.

The stop banks next to his farm were designed to spill water to prevent it going over the other side and flooding the town.

"The water just came over the stop banks and it filled up like a bath pretty much," he said.

If there was no more substantial rain this week, Hemi Ruha expected the water to start draining away within a few days.

Further up the Ōtara River, Nevada White's dairy farm received most of its heaviest rain between 5pm and 8pm on Monday.

He had to rescue his cows from low-lying paddocks and put them on a hill.

Mr White said the long-term effects to deal with were silt and rubbish on paddocks.

"A lot of the paddocks the cows were due to go in - we now won't be able to get into for a number of weeks."

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Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

About 165 millimetres of rain fell on D'Arcy Matthews farm at Motu. Part of his 120-hectare farm is low-lying land alongside the Waiaua River and about a third of his farm was inundated.

"It is going to bring some short-term pressure on the farm."

His cows would not be able to use the low-lying paddocks for a while and when they did return the grass would be dirty, he said.

"They are not going to like it."

If the region was hit by Cyclone Gita coming down from the Pacific next week it would be very serious, Mr Matthews said.

All they could really do was monitor the weather, he said.

"If it is going to hit us we will have to come up with a pretty decent plan almost immediately."

Bill Healy's Galatea dairy farm near the Rangitaiki River was one of the worst affected by last April's flooding.

He said things were just starting to look up, but this week's rain had left 70 hectares under water.

"There's a good wallop of it under with 85mm of rain ... it's definitely flooding worse each year with less amount of rain."

Flood hit Galatea farmers

Galatea farmers Steve Dallinger, Shaun Healy, Shona Pederson. Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Aniwhenua Lake is downstream from Mr Healy's farm and he said an engineer has pointed out a river delta to him.

"We need that delta removed to let the floodwaters at least get to where they need to go, rather than going sideways into our properties."

He said in the past ten months the land had dried out and started growing good grass, but if the recent floodwater stays on the pasture it would ruin it.

"Nothing we can do, just when we get to a paddock that's got grass in it we need to graze it so that if [the river] comes up more we've still got higher ground grass waiting for us.

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