Cantabrians dig deep to help farming community ravaged by Nelson fires

More than 150 firefighters continued to battle the Nelson fire on Sunday.
GEORGE HEARD/STUFF
More than 150 firefighters continued to battle the Nelson fire on Sunday.

Rural Cantabrians have leaped to the aid of Nelson's farming community to replace vital animal feed destroyed in the ongoing fires.

Huge amounts of grass and hay have been lost in the blaze, leaving farmers and cattle owners desperate for feed for their animals.

Their counterparts in Canterbury have answered the call, donating 200 hay bales since Friday and mobilising a convoy to offer them some welcome relief.

Paule​ Crawford launched the appeal after speaking to a friend who was evacuated from her home in Pigeon Valley.

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Crawford said: "She said the horses are at a racecourse but they are short of feed and need hay, so I said I would see what I could find.

"I've had my land burned before and I know what it feels like – it's not nice."

Hay is being transported from Canterbury after an appeal was launched by rural Cantabrians to help their counterparts in fire-stricken Nelson.
SUPPLIED
Hay is being transported from Canterbury after an appeal was launched by rural Cantabrians to help their counterparts in fire-stricken Nelson.

Firefighters from across the country continued their battle to contain the fire on Sunday, with at least 150 working to stem its spread through its main centre in Pigeon Valley.

The blaze has ravaged more than 2300 hectares of land since it broke out on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of at least 2600 people.

Federated Farmers Golden Bay president Wayne Langford said they were extremely grateful for the help being offered.

But he said the extent of the fire's impact on the farming community was not yet clear, making it hard to know exactly what assistance was needed.

He told Stuff: "We don't fully understand what we are going to need because we don't know what the fire is going to do or where it is going to go.

"Stock has had to be moved in some places, but some of the bigger properties have not been affected by it.

"We do want help, we're just working out exactly what we need at the moment."

Crawford, who lives on a rural property in Geraldine, contacted her hay contractor and set up a Facebook page to call for help on Friday.

She has since been inundated with offers, with two firms alone, Quality Feeds and Contracting and Mid Canterbury Baling, providing 120 hay bales, straw and trucks.

Four truckloads are now ready to leave for Nelson next Friday, but the flood of donations is so large they are struggling to get it to the stricken community.

Crawford is appealing for others to come forward with transport, donations for fuel, drivers and accommodation.

"It is Kiwis doing what they do best and helping each other out," she said.

"We have enough feed for six trucks but we don't have enough trucks yet.

"The feed is coming in and we are getting a lot of offers, so anyone with a truck and trailer spare and who wants to get involved, we want to hear from you."

More then 20 helicopters and three planes were mobilised on Sunday to help stop the spread of the blaze, which has now ravaged more than 2300 hectares.
GEORGE HEARD/STUFF
More then 20 helicopters and three planes were mobilised on Sunday to help stop the spread of the blaze, which has now ravaged more than 2300 hectares.

Among the volunteers is Gerard Daldry, owner of Christchurch firm Protranz Earthmoving Ltd.

After receiving the call on Sunday morning he headed to St Andrews, south of Timaru, to pick up hay bales and will transport them to Nelson in the coming days.

He said: "We just try to respond to this type of stuff – we got water into Kaikōura when they had the earthquake.

"I was born on a farm in Rakaia, so it is just a social response."

Stuff