As communications and power returns to urban areas affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, there are still isolated rural communities that are in urgent need, say B+LNZ staff working on the ground.
Federated Farmers is standing up the Farmy Army again, and people can register as volunteers here.
B+LNZ’s response team is working across regional North Island, feeding into the national emergency response and connecting with farming communities.
B+LNZ is part of the Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group (RAG) which includes the Ministry for Primary Industries, Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Fonterra, and rural communities.
As part of this work, Gisborne-based B+LNZ Māori Agribusiness Advisor Pania King and Hawke’s Bay-based Lead Extension Manager Mark Harris have been part of flyovers to assess the most impacted areas.
“The main focus has been to check on the welfare of farmers and their families, and also animal welfare,” says King.
“During flyovers we have been identifying isolated farmers and rural communities, as well as access points for 4×4 vehicles to reach farmers.
“When we land, we do a welfare check and provide resources. We’ve heard over and over again from farmers how pleased they are to see a familiar face after such a long period in isolation.
“The level of support people are showing is remarkable. We’re seeing volunteers clearing drains, mending fences, setting up distribution points and knocking on doors to check on their neighbours.
“The rural community has really come together.”
B+LNZ has been advocating for rural support, and yesterday the Government announced a further interim emergency relief package, including $250m for road repairs, $50m to deliver interim emergency business and primary sector support, and Inland Revenue support including interest write-offs, tax concessions for donated trading stock and an extension of R&D Tax Incentive filing deadlines.
B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor reiterated that while the Government’s announcement is welcomed, farmers must be able to easily access this funding.
“The Government funding must get to farmers quickly and effectively, particularly in those isolated areas, and we will be working to make this process as seamless as possible. MPI has been supportive of this,” he says.
“Farmers know what they need, so we will be making sure that they’re heard and understood. B+LNZ will be working with our partner agencies to ensure there is a well-coordinated process for farmers to receive this support.
“The cyclone has had a catastrophic effect on some farmers and their livelihoods, but rural communities are showing strength and unity.
“Communications, electricity, and farmers’ welfare are urgent priorities and B+LNZ staff are playing an integral role in gathering information by using their local relationships and knowledge to make sure immediate needs are met.
“All the information gathered by our team is being fed back to the Government to inform plans on what more B+LNZ can do to support sheep and beef farmers.
“Our staff are on the ground and in the air, connecting farmers with the right support. There are some we haven’t got to yet, but we will. Farmers can contact our staff directly, too.
“B+LNZ will also be drawing on the knowledge of other farmers throughout the country who have had similar experiences.”
What you can do to help
There are various funds operating for financial donations including through the Farmers Adverse Events Trust givealittle page (donations to this fund qualify for tax credits).