Farmers urged to maintain feed stocks as thaw kicks in
Snow dumped on Canterbury by last week's storms is disappearing fast as nor'west winds speed up the thaw in the high country and dry out sodden down country farms.
"We've pretty much completed stock rescue work and most farmers are now in a position where they can either access their stock or they've got their stock to a point where they can get feed to them and have got adequate feed supplies," said Rural Support Mid Canterbury co-ordinator of volunteers Sue Baird.
"From that point of view it's over and this weather that we're getting is just exactly what they needed in creating a really good thaw. We've been talking to a few up in the gorges and they've got green showing through so any stock that are still out will have access to feed.
"Given the nature of the storm there will be isolated losses but I would say it's absolutely minimal compared with what it could have been."
The snow is also receding in North Canterbury, said Rural Support Trust chairman Doug Archbold. "The Ashley's running at 103 cumecs so there must be a heck of a thaw going on. The other bit of good news is that there are minimal losses, which is fantastic.
"Rural communities have still got that spirit of helping one another."
"One of the key things to come out of this whole exercise is that the philosophy of helping one another is alive and well in the rural community and that's great.
"I suppose it's the rural equivalent of the earthquakes."
But with winter far from over, despite the warm weather this week, Archbold said farmers still need to keep an eye on feed reserves.
"In these last couple of weeks there's been a huge volume of feed that's been used. A lot of these stock that have come off the hills - normally that's where they stay but once they come off the hills they have to feed them silage or hay. We'll be watching that we're not going to get to the end of July and run into feed shortages because it's a really critical time with lambing and calving coming up."
Sue Baird said the relief effort in Mid-Canterbury was helped enormously by up to 50 volunteers who, though town-dwellers, had high country experience, including recreational hunters.
"In addition to that a lot of the farmers did free up their staff - if they were under control themselves, they'd say to their neighbour, ‘do you want a couple of my guys with dogs for a day or two?'
"There was an awful lot of that went on, there was neighbours helping neighbours, but at the same time we had a good pool of volunteers."
The rural communication network kept the support trust up to date with who most needed help after the storm.
"People were passing information to us so that we could give somebody a call and say, ‘look if you need a wee bit of help, we're here, just yell out if you want somebody for a day or two'," Baird said.
"But more so it was people ringing and saying, ‘give this guy a call, I think he may be struggling trying to do it all himself.' Farmers and the rural community are very proud and they're very stoic and they will just battle on and I think the reality of it was that they'd had three days hard work before that storm even hit, they'd mustered their stock as far as they could, so they would be exhausted."