Utter dismay, devastation.
That’s the feeling for rural and urban families and businesses in huge chunks of Northland, Coromandel, Gisborne-Wairoa, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and neighbouring regions after Cyclone Gabrielle’s rain and wind. The flooding and slips compounded damage done by Cyclone Hale, when farms in many places were already counting the cost of an abnormally wet season.
It’s a bitter irony that plenty of farms in Otago and Southland are heading into their third summer/autumn drought in a row.
I shook my head in some amazement at the headline on one mainstream media website – “Government’s $4 million may fall short of Cyclone Gabrielle’s ‘unprecedented’ damage”. May??! We’re grateful for the government support, but even Ag Minister Damien termed the $4m “initial”.
These cyclones have left in their wake damage that will total many hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to put right. And big questions are now being asked around whether current roads and utilities networks are in the right place for the future.
The priority of Federated Farmers’ elected leaders and staff this week has been on reaching out to isolated farms with comms, electricity and roads access severed to get an accurate handle on their needs. We’re working with all the emergency management, support and government agencies, and we’ve contacted the NZ Banking Association, IRD and others to urge flexibility on financial arrangements and deadlines.
The Kiwi way is to reach out to help those affected. As Wednesday’s national advisory from Andrew Hoggard noted, we’ve set up buttons on our website enabling people to lodge donations and offers of labour, machinery, generators, etc. The fact is it may be a week, even weeks, before farmers hit hardest can work out what would help them most, and be in a position to call in labour help or our Farmy Army. Problem is, by then the sun may well be shining again and many of those unaffected will again be wrapped up in their own busy lives.
So let’s do our best to keep in mind those whose livelihoods have been smashed. Click the donation or Volunteer Registration on the opening page of our website. This is going to be a long haul to put right – and as we’ve already said to the government, it should be top of their agenda for resources and action.