Northland growers struggling after cyclone destruction

Sun, Mar 12
Andre De Bruin assessing his crop.

More than $18 million have been paid out to farmers and growers following Cyclone Gabrielle, according to the latest Ministry of Primary Industries figures.

Half has gone to those in Hawke’s Bay, with 20% going to the Gisborne district - some has also been paid out in Northland, where growers have suffered devastating losses to their crops.

1News chief correspondent John Campbell travelled to Dargaville, the country’s kumara capital, to see first-hand how the North’s growers are coping.

While the land looks green and gorgeously bountiful, it won't be a good year for Dargaville’s farmers.

Grower Andre De Bruin’s crop barely survived the aftermath of the floods, much of his livelihood destroyed.

“This paddock that we’re harvesting in, about, about 25% to 30%,” he said.

Just one crop a year, roughly three-quarters of it gone. That’s a brutal pay cut, and some growers will suffer worse.

“They’ve lost their crops, they’ve had it through their houses, they’ve had it go through sheds, so they have zero income,” De Bruin said.

The financial damage won’t just affect growers; the workers who tend to the land will also take a hit too.

“This seasonal work is extremely important for their overall annual income,” he said.

Almost everyone connected to kumara here will now have less money to spend after Gabrielle ravaged the area.

“For the local businesses, growers will shut up their spending as much as possible so that they won’t get the income.”

Locals here are doing it tough and have been congregating at the local rugby club, trying to restore some semblance of ordinary life.

Last week, the Rural Support Trust, as part of an all-in collaboration with Fonterra, MPI, beef, lamb and dairy groups, have been putting on dinners at the local club.

Michelle Ruddell says it's all about helping to reconnect the community.

“So, our collaboration dinner has been working non-stop since Cyclone Gabrielle let us back on the road, so in the last couple of weeks, I think they’ve put out about ten.”

“We’re tired. But, hey, look, our communities are coming together, and they’re connecting, and they’re supporting, and they’re talking, and they’re helping each other out without even knowing it.”

Campbell spoke to Neil MacMillian at the dinner; he drove two hours so he could attend.

He decided to come because he’s lived through hard times, and he knows their cost.

“They’re coping right now, I think further down the track is when the real problems will start,” he said.

Tough times are ahead for the region.

And while kindness won’t undo the damage of Gabrielle, it reminds you that you’re not out there alone.

“I think people need other people around them to help them feel loved and to help them know that it’s worth it,” Ruddell said.


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