Govt triggers relief for Northland farmers

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND SIMON DAY
Last updated 20:17 15/07/2014

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Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has triggered a relief programme for Northland farmers, after declaring flooding in the region a medium-scale adverse event.

The declaration means farmers in the region are eligible for measures including tax relief, social welfare payments, mentoring and other support, as part of a package of measures.

"The storm has impacted around 80 per cent of the primary sector in Northland with very high winds and heavy rainfall over a solid four day period," said Guy, who is today visiting orchards and dairy farms around Whangarei.

"I've seen for myself the damage today at an avocado orchard severely damaged by wind and dairy farms near Whangarei under water.

"With spring calving beginning and avocado crops close to harvest this storm couldn't have come at a worse time. It has been a tough blow for many farmers in western parts of Northland who suffered through a prolonged drought earlier this year."

Yesterday Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye announced a $100,000 contribution towards a mayoral relief fund to provide help to those with financial difficulties brought on by the recent flooding.

But according to Labour MP Kelvin Davis that support is insufficient while many locals remain severely affected by the storm.

Davis, a Kaitaia local and candidate for Te Tai Tokerau, who has received dozens of reports of Northland residents still homeless and without supplies after the flooding, says this is not enough.

“The $100,000 I think is inadequate. I saw today, although this is probably covered by insurance, one shopkeeper has had to heave out $35,000 worth of stock because of power cuts,” Davis said.

Davis has received reports of residents who lost homes to the high winds and have no insurance; Waimamaku families who have been forced to use a portable shower at the local shop because they don’t have running water; and lifestyle farmers in the Wekawkea have been without power for seven days.

"It is the length and breadth of the Far North council and even down into the Whangarei District Council," he said.

There were reports of panic fuel buying in Kerikeri, and in Moerewa homes are unliveable after being contaminated by septic tanks.

“There was a story of an elderly kaumatua and kuia out the back of Pipiwai, who were trapped in their house for two days, they might have run out of food and no-one could get to them,” Davis said.

The Northland roads are a huge issue for the region, where State Highway One south of Kawakawa has been washed out, Davis said.

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“My wife came around the detour today, and she just went “my god”. There is no metal on it anymore because there has just been so much traffic. The first rain it gets is just going to be an ice skating rink,” he said.

The detour to Kaitaia on State Highway 12 via Dargaville adds two hours to the journey and was clogged with traffic according to reports, Davis said.

“Those country roads are a real issue. You just wonder how these people guts it out,” he said.

On Monday Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said NZ Transport Agency contractors would be working “24 hours a day” to establish an alternative route to the slip south of  Kawakawa, although a permanent fix “will take some time”.

Brownlee said one of the additional regional road upgrades announced at the National Party conference was “on the very stretch of State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa which has been washed out by this week's storm”.

"You don't have to convince the Government that Northland needs better roading,” Brownlee said.


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