Horowhenua Chronicle

Pitching in to help when it matters

Seeing the destructio­n brought a few tears, writes

- TERRY COPELAND Terry Copeland is chief executive of Federated Farmers.

I am often inspired and uplifted by the true sense of community our farmers and growers have for each other.

As I reflect upon spending a few days in the Hawke’s Bay recently, there is no doubt this adverse event and national state of emergency are among the very worst this country has ever experience­d (if not the worst).

It is important to remember that whilst the Hawke’s Bay was affected the hardest, there are isolated pockets of communitie­s from Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, Gisborne, Wairoa, Tararua, Wairarapa, and significan­t damage in Manawatu.

This goes across 25 territoria­l authoritie­s, multiple branches of support agencies like Rural Support Trust, and lots of organisati­ons wanting to help and make a difference.

Having lived through the Christchur­ch earthquake­s in 2010-11, resulting in my family losing our house, I can completely relate to the shock, vulnerabil­ity, exhaustion, and fear of not knowing how you can “get through this” feels like.

I will admit to shedding a few tears when seeing the devastatio­n through the Dartmoor Valley where there were no people, and an almost-lunar scene devoid of anything above ground level because everything was covered in a layer of silt and whole orchards had disappeare­d.

On one of the mornings Federated Farmers provincial sales and engagement adviser Salli Baldock, Feds Hawke’s Bay president Jim Galloway and I, alongside Beef + Lamb CEO Sam McIvor and a couple of his local team, went to meet with a group of farmers in Otane (Central Hawke’s Bay). One of the farmers I knew quite well, and I asked him how his place was affected.

He owns a large, high-value-crop arable farm and he explained that of his 740ha property, all but 20ha was still under water 10 days after the fateful night the Cyclone hit. Luckily, his house and main implement shed were spared. He was more concerned about the damage to some of his neighbours who are dealing with animals cut off in inaccessib­le paddocks, local roading, and what impact further rain would have.

I am often inspired and uplifted by the true sense of community our farmers and growers have for each other. They all pitch in to help each other when it really matters. This pragmatic approach and simply rolling your sleeves up and get stuff done is their way of coping.

The number of bridges destroyed across the North Island may end up in the hundreds.

The forestry slash across the Hawke’s Bay beaches is quite extreme, and obviously up in Tairawhiti this is an ongoing issue. However, it’s not all forestry slash.

The bridge at Rissington was swept away due to whole trees planted as part of the riparian plantings along the riverbanks. Weeds building up on riverbanks have grown significan­tly across the Hawke’s Bay due to stock being fenced off and no longer are these weeds grazed and kept under control. This added to river levels flowing at a higher rate in many instances along with the lack of shingle removal raising the bottom of the river plains. This is a regional council responsibi­lity, and we saw this from the Canterbury flooding in 2020, so no excuses . . .

Concerns were raised on the lack of informatio­n people were able to access when everything except battery-operated radios were rendered useless. Why wasn’t national radio used to convey informatio­n that help was coming, which areas were affected and what was being done?

That’s one of many issues I have brought back to Wellington about the lack of a “Civil Defence radio”. The lack of informatio­n about who was cut off, and where. Another was the military grounding private helicopter companies from making crucial food and medicine drops as they wanted to have clear skies for themselves and could handle the situation. Why didn’t they simply bring these helicopter­s and pilots under their command and cover a greater area much more quickly?

The vital roading infrastruc­ture is going to take a long time to fix.

In Christchur­ch, the roading system took 10 years to fix the affected roads and that was in just one (large) geographic location. Its decisions like those that need to be made ahead of serious recovery projects getting underway.

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