22 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: $25m fund to help farmers facing 'monumental task' - Damien O'Connor

8:40 am on 22 February 2023
Flood damage in the Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay.

Flood damage in the Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Grants from a $25 million fund will help farmers and growers in cyclone hit areas with the monumental task ahead of them, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says.

Growers can access grants of $2000 per hectare, up to a maximum of $40,000, to remove silt from trees and vines, support their clean-up efforts, and minimise tree and vine losses.

Grants of up to $10,000 are available for pastoral and arable farmers to help with their initial recovery, such as repairs to fencing or water infrastructure for stock.

"Farmers know their farms best, and this grant will help them to direct the money where it will help most," Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said.

Labour MP Damien O'Connor

Damien O'Connor Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The focus of the government's support would mostly be on the hardest hit areas, such as Hawke's Bay.

"It's vital we help rural businesses recover so we can keep our regional economies ticking and exports flowing."

"It is a high trust model, but there's so much devastation there if this money helps people to move forward it's money well invested," O'Connor told Morning Report.

"It's a start for people who will be looking at a monumental task ahead of them.

"For those people in farms out in the back blocks, we haven't been able to visit and get all the information from them, $10,000 maybe to buy some piping, just to get a digger in to clear some tracks ... it's just a start in what is a massive task ahead all regions.

"For people on orchards and farms it's their home and their livelihood and their job," he said.

"This money will help people look forward have some money in the bank to do things that they know need to happen now."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, O'Connor said the forestry sector would not be covered by the package, but "may need some help" to restore infrastructure in future.

Details on how to apply would be on the Ministry for Primary Industries' website from Wednesday afternoon, but O'Connor said it would be "a simple process."

The $25 million dollar package is part of the initial $50m of support announced by the government on Monday for businesses and the primary sector.

The government said further support will come, once more assessments of the damage have taken place.

"Rest assured, this is an initial funding package to support our farming communities to kick-start the recovery work, and there will be further support to help our regions with their longer-term recovery," Cyclone Recovery and Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

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