Flooded farmers still need support

Bay of Plenty farmers have made plenty of headway in getting farms back on track since the severe flooding of Cyclone Cook and Cyclone Debbie in April, but there are still farmers in need of help both professionally and emotionally, says Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president Darryl Jensen.

“We’ve certainly made headway in the recovery effort, but it really depends on the circumstances on each farm, and the severity of the flooding on each property. “Some farmers embraced the help and services offered to them and coped well, while others put their head in the sand and tried to cope by themselves without much luck – until they finally put their hand up and admitted they needed help.” The Rural Support Trust has seen a surge of farmers accessing the service since April 6, and particularly in the past two months. Bay of Plenty Rural Support Trust regional leader and wellness coordinator Igor Gerritsen says in the 12 months leading up to April 6, the trust had 36 clients accessing the service, but that number had risen to 99 clients in the period from April to September 2017.

No let-up in stress

“Usually over the dry period, farmers have had a break and are prepared for calving,” says Igor. “This year the stress just hasn’t let up. The continued wet weather has made flood recovery more difficult, and by the time farmers reach calving they are already overcooked.” Darryl says Federated Farmers, Fonterra and Rural Support Trust are “in it for the long haul”, and insurance companies have been very helpful to deal with. And despite early criticism by farmers for lack of government flood-relief funding for the rural sector, there has been more financial support since. The original $200,000 funding grant from Ministry for Primary Industries was dispersed on a first-in, first-served basis, and in late September, a new $100,000 grant, assessed and distributed based on need, was made available. "Some farmers have horrendous bills from this recovery to get their farms up and running; to clean up debris and restore crops and pasture,” says Darryl. Federated Farmers has been able to ensure that almost all flood-affected farmers have been able to continue living on their property, either in their homes or in temporary accommodation, as living off-farm was an impossibility.

Staying on-farm

“It was critical that they were able to continue to live where they work, as you can’t calve cows from a distance.” There were still a number of farmers running smaller numbers of stock on-farm, with the balance of their herds accommodated elsewhere. “We helped to accommodate stock on alternative farms wherever we could, as the last thing we wanted was for farmers to sell down capital stock.” Going forward there will be to be a “new normal” for a number of farmers. “There are environmental issues that need to be sorted out, and infrastructure to be rebuilt,” says Darryl. “It will take some farmers at least three to five years to get back on track.” The Rural Support Trust provides free and confidential support for overwhelmed farmers, whether they need banking or financial advice, on-farm advice, or counselling services. Phone 0800 787 254.


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