Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Govt announces $4m Canty flood relief package

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Farmers have welcomed government’s $4 million relief funding to support flood-ravaged Canterbury farmers, but they are hopeful it is just a start.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government support package for farmers recovering from the damage of a historic one-in-200-year flood, while on-farm in Mid Canterbury on Thursday.

An additional $100,000 will also be provided to the Mayoral Relief Fund to support Canterbury communities.

“Our Canterbury farmers are dealing with a massive recovery effort following the recent floods and facing significant costs that aren’t covered by insurance,” Ardern said.

“The flooding has caused widespread and significant damage across a number of districts and recovery efforts are ongoing and considerable.

“It’s clear that extra funding is needed to relieve pressure on farmers.

“This new funding will help ensure that they are supported and can get on with the job of fixing their farms and get their farming operations under way again.”

Ardern acknowledged it is early days.

“It is too early to have a full assessment of the scale of the damage and what will be required to repair farm damage,” she said.

“It’s $4m at this stage and I have not ruled out more funding in the future.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has started depositing grants into the bank accounts of severely flood-affected farmers and we will continue to work closely with Federated Farmers, Rural Support Trusts, councils and industry organisations to support farmers with their recovery.

Acting Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri says the region’s farmers and their communities have a big clean-up job ahead of them.

“The Government remains committed to helping them get through,” Whaitiri said.

Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust chair Peter Reveley welcomed the $4m but says it will barely scratch the surface.

“We have farms out there that will easily cost $500,000 to fix; one or two of the most severely damaged farms are looking at up to $1m,” Reveley said.

“We need to get a comprehensive assessment of all farms and that will take some time. In the meantime, the immediacy is to get these farmers back into some scale of business.”

Reveley confirmed $25m was the figure put to the Prime Minister at this stage for the removal of shingle from farms and rivers.

“The rivers are exceedingly weak. This is a massive job and it’s not one that farmers are individually responsible for,” he said.

Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers president David Clark says the meeting with the Prime Minister was constructive, focusing on how to deal with the immediate need tempering stress and anxiety, and relieving pressure in the meantime.

Clark says much of the damage relates to uninsurable land and infrastructure.

“We need to be realistic in that traditionally no government of any flavour gets involved in funding of insurable assets on private land, urban or rural. Farmers decide on their view of risk and insure to a level they are comfortable with,” Clark said.

“What needs to be clear is that farmers are not asking for government help for a flood event, this is very different.

“The natural process in Canterbury is shingle works its way down from the mountains, that’s how the Canterbury Plains formed.

“We have held rivers in specific locations as towns and cities developed, but the natural background process has not stopped, shingle still makes its way out into rivers.

“Arguably we have not given enough regard to the removal of that shingle to maintain the flood capacity of the river channels.

“In this case, rivers have burst, carrying with it that excess shingle, so these (affected) farmers have taken a significant hit in the process of saving the rest of Canterbury from flooding.

Clark says they are looking for a whole of community solution to remove that shingle from the land, so that is how this $4m will be spent, with some very clear criteria.

“This is a very specific instance, there is a lot of money to be spent on these rivers, big tasks, millions of dollars,” he said.

“We do hope there will be more (government funding) to come.”

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