19 Jul 2020

Farmers face big clean up after Northland floods

2:42 pm on 19 July 2020

Some Northland farmers are facing a big clean-up job after this weekend's massive dumping of rain.

A car drives through flooding in Northland on 18 July.

Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

River and stream levels in the region are dropping, but many low-lying paddocks remain inundated with floodwater.

Grass and other debris is hanging off kilometres of farm fencing.

Roger Lubrook is a bull farmer in Ōhaeawai, about 20 minutes drive from Paihia.

Much of the farm is on free-draining volcanic soil and he was optimistic that with a few solid days of dry weather, they would be back to normal within a few weeks.

He still faces a big clean up job however, having lost a lot of his brand new exclusion fencing.

"The water comes up so high so quickly and then goes down again," he said.

"That's basically what happened - we've had about 300mm of rain in 48 hours and it's still raining now."

With no big rainfall for quite some time, a lot of grass and debris has built up in and around rivers and streams.

"You've had big islands of grass and weedmat just picked up in the rivers and taken downstream," Ludbrook said.

"Unfortunately they've gone over the top of fences. One of the things we watched two days ago was we were standing on a hill and watching a big floating island of grass go down and take out our shooters' maimai."

The clean-up has started but Northland Civil Defence says there is significant damage in some places.

Roads are cleaned up after the heavy flooding. Photo: Northland Civil Defence / Facebook

Ludbrook said farmers in low-lying areas around Kawakawa and Moerewa were used to flooding and were generally well prepared for it, but farmers on heavier clay soils with poor drainage could find the recovery a lot tougher, with their paddocks waterlogged for a lot longer.

"I just ran down with a feed-out trailer and it was pretty torrid going and that was close to here... So I think anyone trying to feed out is going to make a real mess if they're out there on tractors," Ludbrook said.

"That's the other thing, you're going to have to go down on tractors to clean up a lot of your mess anyway."

Northland has been badly affected by drought over summer, but Ludbrook said the Bay of Islands had some reasonable rainfall in recent months and the area hit saturation point about four weeks ago.

"For us this has probably been a difficult event because there's been such a run-off, the ground simply hasn't been able to take any more rain."

"That's played a big part in the damage that's been incurred around this area, through to Waitangi."

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