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Cyclone Hale leaves a massive mess to clean up in Riversdale

Cyclone Hale left Riversdale farms with metre-deep river sediment covering entire paddocks, kitchens flooded, and kilometres of fence lines ruined.

Mike Taylor’s farm was one of the worst-hit, and he took the Times-Age for a tour of the damage in the area.

Taylor had just spent about $14,000 to re-gravel his driveway in November, only to have it washed out and full of holes just a few weeks later.

His cattle yards were deep in sediment, the force of the water had flattened gates, and one of his calf-raising barns was filled with sludge.

“It’s gone right through the shed. That’s another job for another day,” he said.

What had been a gentle stream flowed far past its banks and all the way to the edge of one of his paddocks.

Taylor said trees above his property had been pushed down the creek, causing “a log jam in there that’s about eight feet high”.

Over the road, Taylor’s neighbour Quinn Tua-Davisdson had floodwaters wash through his kitchen and damage piles under his house.

He said the water was at least waist-deep, reaching up the exterior walls of his house.

Some areas of Tua-Davidson’s farm were a metre deep in silt, while fence lines were downed for about 5km: “It’s not just a matter of fixing it again. It’s a pull-down and start again job.” He said there was an incredible amount of silt covering his land.

While assessing the damage, Taylor found a gumboot in one of Tua-Davidson’s trees.

Along the road, chunks of chip seal had been ripped up by the raging waters and pushed into roadside drains.

Taylor said he hadn’t seen flood damage of a similar scale for about 15 years.

“If you go in with heavy machinery, you’ll make a hell of a mess.”

Further north up the coast, Castlepoint Station owner Anders Crofoot had only just finished fixing winter slips when he was hit with a whole lot more.

Inland, Mike Butterick had fences filled with branches and kilometres of floodgates to repair: “Pretty much every floodgate up every gully is gone.”

He said it was hard to contain stock with flattened fences, and it was hard to get in to fix them.

Yellowed and dying crops could be seen as he drove down the road to his farm.

“We’ve got about a hectare of drowned fodder beet,” he noted.

Butterick said the past year had been extremely tough for cropping farmers who had already had to absorb extra costs to
plant their crops this season.

“And then mother nature let them down at the last minute.”

Butterick said big storms seemed to be happening more and more frequently, something he said was linked to climate change.

Tua-Davidson said he was worried about how he’d continue to farm as climate change-driven weather events become more frequent.

Butterick said the next opportunity to fix some of the pasture damage would be in Autumn, but the damage he had suffered was nothing compared to what had happened to crop farmers.

“Costs could be in the hundreds of thousands.”

In terms of the operation ahead, Taylor said it was hard to say what the long-term effect of the damage would be.

“I would think I’m going to probably sell a little bit of stock because we’re certainly going to be down a usable area.

“I’m not really sure how long it will take. Just what do you do? Do you lift the fence out and start again from the top?”

Additional reporting
by Ellie Franco.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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