Canterbury flooding: Best friend safe but pain lingers

3:20 pm on 8 June 2021

Dave Stewart and his family may have emerged from the floodwaters safe and well.

But the heartache of a flooding catastrophe which ravaged the Mid-Canterbury district has not subsided for the Greenstreet dairy farmer who was evacuated alongside wife Maree and son TJ on Sunday 30 May.

The image of 10-year-old dog Max being guided onto a truck by a member of the New Zealand Defence Force during the evacuation circulated across national and international channels as news broke of the Canterbury region being lashed by a one-in-100-year rain event.

As Stewart, 67, surveyed the damage to the 200ha family farm yesterday, which he said was going to absorb significant time and costs, there was only one feeling that came to mind.

"Soul destroying," he said.

The Ashburton River is currently running through the farm after a river stopbank was breached and one of the two family homes on the farm suffered flooding damage.

the Ashburton River is virtually running through the back of the Stewarts' family farm after May 2021 flooding

The Ashburton River is virtually running through the back of the family farm. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns

None of the family's stock succumbed to the flood, however, some areas of land will be out of action for several months.

Enclosed by both the north and south branches of the Hakatere river, Greenstreet has been one of the worst affected areas of the flood.

The Stewart family had been anticipating nasty weather on the Sunday and began the process of coordinating their cows.

It was not long before farm vehicles were abandoned at the cow shed and Dave, Maree and son TJ were being hauled into an army truck along Hills Rd.

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Greenstreet dairy farmer Dave Stewart and Max are safely back on the farm at Greenstreet, near Ashburton. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns

"I was struggling to get up there," Stewart said.

"And the guy said 'here give me the dog' and he just totally relaxed in the army guy's arms."

Driving away in the Defence Force vehicle and facing an uncertain outlook in terms of the family farm, Stewart remembers the experience as heartbreaking.

"Me and [son] TJ were inconsolable," he said.

"We didn't know what tomorrow was going to bring," TJ said.

Their dog was taken to a vet in Ashburton where he stayed for two days as the Stewarts took care of proceedings at the farm.

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It could be a long way back for the Greenstreet dairy farming family following last week's flood event. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns

"He's back home now, he's a bit upset that he's in a kennel and not inside by the fire," Mrs Stewart said.

"It's just the cats aren't used to him."

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