Irrigator damage to cost millions
ASHLEIGH STEWART, NICOLE MATHEWSON, TIM CRONSHAW AND TONY BENNY
Badly damaged crops and buildings, ongoing power outages, 800 mangled irrigators and millions of dollars of infrastructural damage.
That is the situation Canterbury farmers are grappling with three days after the worst wind storm to hit in 40 years.
Federated Farmers says the region's farmers were likely the worst-hit in the country, due to the severity of Tuesday's storm and the high number of pivot irrigators in the province.
Farmers are now at the mercy of the weather as a dry spring with no irrigation would reduce milk production, bringing less revenue into the local economy.
Federated Farmers said millions of dollars would be required to repair the more than 800 irrigators that had sustained - and inflicted - damage as Tuesday's storm tore up the South Island.
Farmers pointed big centre pivots downwind, but the strength of the wind simply toppled them or tore the valuable swing arms.
"[Irrigators] took off in the wind, smashed fences, smashed power poles and smashed trees - and they're very expensive to fix," Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said.
"It's the worst wind event in Canterbury for 40 years. [The damage] is going to run into millions of dollars, there is no question."
Restoring power or sourcing generators was crucial, as once farmers were back on the grid they could turn their attention to repairs, he said.
There remained at least 30 farms yesterday without power.
"It's been a gruelling couple of days but I think we're getting on top of things now," said Federated Farmers dairy industry chairman Willy Leferink.
"Most cows are getting milked and our biggest concern now is water.
"High-producing cows drink a lot of water and we need it in the shed for cleaning up too. Sometimes the pumps are a long way from the shed and need a separate power supply."
IrrigationNZ said reports of severely damaged irrigators were still coming in and they would need to be repaired or written off.
Chief executive Andrew Curtis said the extent of damage to centre pivots and other irrigators across the region was unprecedented. Farmers could also be waiting months to get the necessary parts, he said.
"This is an extremely serious situation. We simply don't have enough parts to repair all of these machines in New Zealand," he said.
"We're looking at a six to eight-week time lag before parts arrive and then a similar time frame before repairs can be completed.
"If we experience a dry spring, the consequences could be dire."
Rainer Irrigation owner Gavin Briggs said his company was aware of 260 centre pivot spans lying on the ground and another 30 pivots across the region that had lost key components. Seven cranes were working to lift damaged equipment.
Federated Farmers regional field officer Pam Boland said all but three of the farmers who had asked for assistance had been issued with generators or had power restored by late yesterday.
The total number of storm-affected farmers was impossible to gauge as not all would contact agencies, she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should we limit the number of dairy farms in NZ?Related story: Dairy farming harming water