Mark Warren, who farms Waipari Station in Central Hawke’s Bay, knows from experience how those cyclone-hit farmers looking out on paddocks of silt and fallen fences feel.
The Federated Farmers member is an offroad/farm vehicle enthusiast and author of Many a Muddy Morning. He’s gone through Cyclone Bola and the “weather bomb” of 2010, “when we got over 500 mm overnight on Waipari , and a 4.5 earthquake just to help shake the mud down”.
Mark says he “learned a few tricks” and shares them here in the hope they’re useful to those hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.
1) It’s not your fault, it’s Mother Nature. Don’t blame yourself or anyone local.
2) It’s easy to race into things; everyone wants to do something. ASAP. But stand back, and make a plan. Find a mentor / wise old head and ask them to help with decisions. Many a wise word is spoken through false teeth.
3) It’s very easy to waste energy trying to clean up/ dig wet, goopy silt. If possible, wait for it to dry so it doesn’t flow off a shovel. Otherwise you’re lifting water. Likewise with loaders and dozers.
4) When working in deep mud/ clay/ silt , wear lace up boots. Slip-ons and gumboots get sucked of your feet when you need them most. It really “roots your boot” to lose a gummy in deep muddy water. I know , because I’ve done it!
Measure the big gaps, number or name them and pre-cut lengths of netting to fit those gaps. Name or number the roll of netting to fit each gap. Add tread-ins/poly rods, enough for one per 3m. Make a careful map, and when help such as choppers or people / horse power arrives , it’s much easier to get the right material to the right place . The plastic Fluoro netting is light and easy to work with.
Get boundary fences secure first. Then cut the farm in half, and half again. Does it really matter if the ewes get back in with the lambs?
Don’t be scared to ask horse trekking groups / the hunt / motor bike / 4WD clubs / shearing gang for help. Now is the time to call in some favours.
This will be the time when a good horse will shine.
It’s easy to let adrenaline overtake you. Been there, done that (drove a big digger , with boom up , into live power wires one night, half asleep after a 14 hour day).
Experience is the thing you get the spilt second after you needed it!
Don’t try to tough it out on your own. Lots of people are waiting to be asked to help you. They’re waiting for your call.