Sunday, April 21, 2024

Canty navigates post-flood infrastructure woes

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Time is ticking for high country farmers rebuilding access infrastructure to get stock off their properties before the snow sets in. Ravaged by the Canterbury flood event, three weeks on and high country farmers are grappling with greater than usual isolation as they wait for washed out roads and bridges to be repaired.
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The biggest concern being to get stock out before the snow sets in.

“Usually in the first three weeks of June we would have had our first decent snow dump,” Erewhon Station farmer Colin Drummond said.

Nestled in the headwaters of the Rangitata and Clyde rivers, access infrastructure to Erewhon Station is severely damaged from the floodwaters with complete bridge and road washouts in places, affecting not just Erewhon, but also several other stations in the Ashburton high country.

Drummond says the farmland is not so bad, but the access issues are worrying.

“We were wet, had plenty of surface water, up and around the buildings and the homestead too. It took out our hydro (power) for three days and the ground is water-logged, but it could have been a lot worse.

The Rangitata River flood 18 months ago hit Erewhon hard.

“That saved our bacon this time though, as it washed out most of the shingle and debris and cleaned out the side creeks back then,” he said.

“Our biggest thing this time is access, it’s fairly difficult 4WD (four-wheel-drive) access.”

Drummond would normally have been shifting his hoggets away to grazing about the time of the flood event.

There are also cull cows and sheep to get out.

“It’s been a matter of access and having to get stock trucks through the river; there’s a lot of access infrastructure damage that will take some time to repair,” he said.

“The contractors have been elsewhere so we have been out with the dozer ourselves, so we can get our stock out.

“I’m going to need to get a fuel tanker in here very soon too, as fuel is running low – maybe it’s just as well I haven’t got the shoes off the Clydesdales yet.”

He says it has been a blessing that the days have not been too cold, as there has still been a picking of grass to help feed the stock for the extra few weeks.

High Country Farmers chair Rob Stokes farms Richon Station in the Lees Valley, where access is also the number one challenge following the flooding.

“They are working on the main slip to get up the valley but realistically, a lot of this work is not going to be done until spring,” Stokes said.

In the meantime, there’s stock to get out for winter grazing.

“I like to get them out by the end of June, it gets ugly here in July,” Stokes said.

Not able to get stock trucks into his own property, Stokes is preparing to walk cattle out across the Ashley River to a neighbouring property to be trucked away.

“The river is getting low enough to walk the cattle through now before we get a metre of snow, but it’s still too high for the sheep,” he said.

“So long as winter doesn’t come rushing in too hard, we will do the necessary bits to get through to spring.”

Stokes praised the work of Civil Defence and the Waimakariri District Council.

“Once they got the heavy machinery in, we could see progress and get some farm tracks driveable,” he said.

The positive is North Canterbury is “pretty cuffed” with the rain.

“It’s turned from dust to green,” Stokes said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of insurance claims are flowing in.

Rural insurance provider FMG has so far received 469 Canterbury flood related claims with 90% of claims for buildings and contents with the rest made up of vehicles, implements, business interruption and livestock claims.

As the response moves to full recovery, more claims are expected as farmers assess the full impact of the damage over coming weeks.

FMG advises clients who still need to lodge a claim, to get in touch.

Farmers affected by the floods are encouraged to tap into the support being made available through the coordinated multi-agency flood response. Farmers can call 0800Farming/0800 327646 or contact the Rural Support Trust (0800 787 254).

Or if you simply need to talk, free call or text 1737 anytime.

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