Farmer: 'We're winning slowly'

COLD RUN: Pete Turnbull lets farm dog Cruise out of the kennel for a run in the snow.
COLD RUN: Pete Turnbull lets farm dog Cruise out of the kennel for a run in the snow.

Long icicles hang from the gutter of Pete Turnbull's home, and parts of his farm are under 1.5 metres of snow, but he's still smiling.

Last week's dump was the worst the sheep and beef farmer has seen in the 19 years he has lived on his 1400-hectare Mt Terako property, north of Waiau.

It rendered his tractor, which can usually slog through up to a metre of snow, useless until a bulldozer cleared tracks on Sunday.

Yesterday, Turnbull, 59, and a mate finally reached the last of his stranded stock. The pair snow-raked a 50m track to lead the cattle to an accessible paddock.

He can now get to all his stock, apart from some cattle on a ridge, by tractor.

A helicopter check on Monday reassured him the herd on the ridge were fine, with the snow clearing in that area.

"We're winning slowly. It's been a tough week," he said.

"I'm quite relaxed about the position I'm in now. I can get a tractor to almost everything. I just have to wait till it thaws now. It's not going to be quick."

Turnbull began preparing for the snow on Wednesday and moved stock into paddocks he could access with a tractor.

He conceded not all farmers had that luxury.

"I'm a bit lucky I'm a small operator. I can get round easier."

Some farmers would be having to make tracks through "metres and metres" of snow to access stock.

While some farmers might still not have reached all their stock, Turnbull believed losses would be minimal.

"There will be some stock losses, but no-one will know until it thaws. It shouldn't be big numbers."

Turnbull's farm is on the Inland Kaikoura Rd, which was closed on Tuesday after a 15-tonne avalanche blocked part of it.

Compared with previous large snowfalls in the area, such as in 1995, this snow was much heavier, he said.

Some farm buildings in the area collapsed under the weight of settled snow.

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Judy Meikle said farmers' food supplies were decreasing quickly, as they had to feed the teams of volunteers helping with snow raking.

Relief packages were expected to be delivered from last night.

Rain forecast tomorrow could also offer some respite by speeding up the thawing process, Meikle said.

"Farmers will be torn, as it will slow snow raking, but it will help break the ice that's forming."

The Press