14 Jul 2014

Good response to farmers' call for help

4:19 pm on 14 July 2014

The Northland Rural Support trust has had an immediate response to its call for emergency feed and grazing to help flood-stricken farmers in the region.

The trust has been closely monitoring the impact of the past week's storm and prolonged rainfall, and put out the call for help on Sunday.

Co-ordinator Julie Jonker said little grazing had been offered but farmers from as far away as Manawatu had offered to send feed, which was in short supply in Northland following the drought.

"We've got a perfect storm in that we've had a drought. People often use some of their winter supplements to get them through the drought period and now, when we were hoping for a mild, not-too-wet winter, we ended up with a flood as bad as the 2007 one that we had," she said.

"We also had those strong winds, and there was a lot of damage to infrastructure such as cow shed roofs blowing off, calf and hay sheds damaged, so chances are some feed supplements may have been damaged as well.

"We are still trying to quantify exactly what the damage is, not only financially but to the farmers involved."

Farmers in the flood-prone Hikurangi Swamp area, north of Whangarei, had been among the hardest hit, Ms Jonker said.

Up to 30 farms there were flooded, and at least nine more downstream at Tangiteroria.

Weeks to clear

One of the flooded Hikurangi Swamp farmers, Ben Smith, said up to 70 percent of his effective dairy farm was under water and it would take weeks for the water to clear.

"The worst of us will be three to four weeks, so we'll have dead pasture from then. Depending on how well spring treats us, we'll need eight weeks after that to get the first grazing off the pasture, so you're talking two or three months, basically," Mr Smith said.

Evan Sneath, a dairy farmer at Hukerenui at the top end of Hikurangi Swamp, said flood levels had dropped a little but he still had about 60ha of land under water, and he was waiting for local council approval to cut the flood banks to clear the water more quickly.

"What we're trying to do there is let the water off our land quicker so we can get back on and start getting stuff in - grass seed or whatever we're going put back into it, and also to try and keep water quality," Mr Sneath said.

"The longer the water sits on our farm, the water quality deteriorates rapidly and it gets to the point where, if it sits too long, there's no oxygen left in the water and, going back into the streams, it starts killing off fish life and everything."

Mr Sneath said he would also have to replace dead pasture, and he was making arrangements to truck in supplies of hay, silage and other supplementary feed.

"I'm doing that off my own bat but I'm also going to get in touch with Rural Support to try and look for some grazing for my young stock."

Farmers who can help with feed or grazing should contact the Northland Rural Support Trust on 0800-787-254.

Flooding near Moerewa on Saturday night.

Flooding near Moerewa on Saturday night. Photo: Mike Butler