Govt announces $4m package for farmers, growers hit by cyclone

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has announced a support package for farmers, growers, whenua Māori owners and rural communities as the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle begins.

Many parts of the North Island have been lashed by fierce weather, disrupting and destroying some road networks, crops and land.

"The breadth of this storm's impact is unprecedented with milk collection disrupted, orchards inundated and livestock losses across much of the North Island. This is a dynamic situation and we are responding accordingly to help the rural sector to respond with this initial funding of $4 million," O'Connor said.

"This is a difficult time for many, with thousands of people's homes and businesses affected by this large-scale adverse event — the Government is here to provide support.

"I expect we will provide more support once a full and thorough assessment of the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle across the North Island is complete. That destruction includes flooded farms and orchards, damage to vital roading and electricity infrastructure, and isolated communities."

O'Connor said conditions continue to make it difficult to assess the full extent of crop damage, livestock losses, and disruption.

"Widespread power outages are affecting dairy farmers' ability to milk cows, especially in Northland. Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff are working closely with sector groups and processors to minimise any potential animal welfare issues.

"It's expected damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle will exacerbate feed issues experienced by some farmers in flood-affected areas. MPI is restarting the national Feed Working Group, which is a partnership with sector groups and specialist providers to monitor feed availability.

"This recovery mobilisation fund will help provide extra resources for sector organisations to support affected areas," O'Connor said.

The Government declared a national state of emergency yesterday morning and announced an $11.5 million community support package to assist in the response to Cyclone Gabrielle.

It is only the third time in the country's history that a national state of emergency has been declared.

"This is an unprecedented weather event, which for some rural communities comes just weeks after flooding in the upper North Island and damage caused by Cyclone Hale," Rural Communities Minister Kieran McAnulty said.

"The MPI Rural Communities and Farming Support, On Farm Support, Animal Health and Welfare, and Māori Agribusiness teams are on the ground in the regions helping where they can.”

Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said regional staff from MPI were focused on assisting the primary sector.

"We're being regularly updated on the well-being of people and the welfare of their livestock. We will work directly with sector groups and organisations, including Rural Support Trusts, to identify and focus help to the areas of greatest need," Whaitiri said.

"Māori agribusinesses and their staff have been affected across the motu and we will help them get through this."

Farming community unite to help each other

Duncan Humm is a Mid-Canterbury deer farmer who is assisting in coordinating a response through the NZ Farming Facebook page.

“A few of us are working behind the scenes,” he said.

“We have been hearing from farmers who need help, along with businesses and other farmers in the South who haven’t been affected by the cyclone.”

“I even heard from a farmer in Southland – they are in the middle of a drought but he offered to donate some silage to go up to the North Island – that’s pretty big of him,” Humm said.

“The $4 million a good first step. It would be good to see what comes next and how it’s going to be distributed,” he said.

“It’s not so much the money, it’s the action that goes with it that makes the difference.

“What can be done is being done.”

Humm said he’s been in touch with a number of farmers who are aware there are other many who are isolated and unreachable due to power and cell phone outages.


More Stories