Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Govt working on targeted support for farmers, O’Connor says

Neal Wallace
Aim is to ‘get growers and farmers back at operational levels’.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the government is ‘preparing a comprehensive recovery package’ for individual producers.
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The government hopes to know within two weeks how to deliver individual support for cyclone-hit Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti farmers and growers.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor acknowledged there is still much recovery assistance needed following Cyclone Gabrielle, and he is awaiting information from which to build a package of targeted assistance.

“We are preparing a comprehensive recovery package to get growers and farmers back at operational levels,” O’Connor told Farmers Weekly.

That information will come from growers, farmers, banks, insurance companies, councils and central government, and be based on LiDAR laser sensing of the landscape and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council plans.

It is a similar process to what is being used in recovery of residential housing damaged by flooding last summer.

Prior to the Budget, the government announced an almost $1 billion recovery package for areas hit by Cyclone Gabrielle and other summer storms, but farmers and growers in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti said there was little direct individual assistance.

For growers, O’Connor said, the focus is on those who still have a crop to harvest this season, to ensure their business and the regional economy continue to benefit.

Others are still clearing their orchards and properties and could be a year or two away from resuming production – and some will not recover.

O’Connor said money has been granted to regional councils to assist with silt disposal along with assistance for landowners to remove silt from orchards and farms.

The government was also criticised for last week’s Budget providing little for the primary sector, but O’Connor said it was always going to be economically constrained.

He said the sector should not dismiss the launch of the government’s Resilience Plan to provide infrastructure investment into roads and bridges.

“Rural communities and rural businesses rely on connections such as roading, broadband and electricity.

“Ensuring reliable connections and access is the single most important component to sustainable businesses and rural communities.”

O’Connor said the government has also announced increased funding for rural health, rural school repairs and maintenance, extending rural broadband and biosecurity.

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