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Government funding for flood-hit farmers

The Government has opened its wallet to Wairarapa farmers hammered by Cyclone Hale.

Wairarapa farmers suffered significant damage to infrastructure and crops when the cyclone swept the east coast last week, dumping rain on already saturated soils.

Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O’Connor announced an $80,000 funding relief package for East Coast Rural Support Trust to help farmers and growers recover from extensive flooding.

East Coast Rural Support Trust Wairarapa coordinator Sarah Donaldson said coastal communities from Glenburn to Tinui were hit particularly hard.

“There is a cumulative effect. All these communities have been hit before, but this is next level,” she said.

“Road access for some is still an issue, with only four-wheel drive access possible. Heavy vehicles are not able to get through in some areas, so that means stock can’t get in and out.

“But fencing damage and the slips are pretty massive around some of those areas, meaning huge issues with access, containing stock and also loss of grazing.”

Donaldson said she knew of some farms that had no tracks at all, and one that had lost its entire fencing.

“Another farmer has lost 25 hectares of crop, and the land is covered in silt. It’s not going to be a quick fix.

“It’s a little bit overwhelming for some at the moment. Some are still reeling. We recognise that this is going to take a substantial amount of time and community effort.”

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president David Hayes said the region had been wet since the 200mm dumping of rain in February last year, and some farmers would be faring worse than others in the aftermath.

“Some slips are really deep, they have cut right in. It’s pretty dramatic. It’s a case of putting up with it until it can be fixed.”

Hayes said farmers in Wairarapa’s main valley would also be hurting from consecutive years of pea crop damage.

“They grow it largely for stock feed, but the peas will be trashed. That is two years in a row now.

“If you don’t have a crop, you’re going to have to leverage your debt, there
is no other way around it.”

He said the past year has presented significant challenges for farmers, and they were feeling the pressure both physically and mentally.

Hayes said the funding announcement was welcome, and East Coast Rural Support Trust was already doing a
“fantastic job” supporting people.

“Farmers are resilient. It’s the tip of the iceberg in the regional economy, but money and support are appreciated.”

Donaldson said the money would not go far individually, and the initial priority was to reconnect people and recruit for the clean-up.

“It equips us to expand to be able to coordinate and look at shared resources and practical solutions.

“These are resilient people, but they are saying they need help.”

The support money follows a $100,000 funding package announced for Tairawhiti region on Friday, unlocking government and recovery assistance measures for farmers and growers, including tax flexibility.

“The ongoing loss of road access for isolated rural communities in affected areas adds to the impacts,” O’Connor said.

“I understand the situation is causing a great deal of stress to some families. It’s important they receive the help they need to recover from this storm, which follows hard on the heels of other high rainfall events.”

East Coast Rural Support Trust can be contacted via their Facebook page www.facebook.com/ruralsupporttrustwai

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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