Tairāwhiti farming leaders say Kiri Allan’s departure as minister heading Cyclone Gabrielle’s recovery is a great loss for a region that benefited from having her direct links to the cabinet.
As East Coast MP, Allan was given the task in Gabrielle’s wake in February, when she called the repair job ahead “monumental”.
Federated Farmers Gisborne Wairoa president Toby Williams said Allan will be sorely missed in the region, where her local connections and contact with high-level Wellington ministers had helped push the recovery along faster.
Allan, who resigned all her ministerial portfolios this week after being charged with careless driving and failing to accompany an officer following a car crash on Sunday night, has said she will not seek re-election for the East Coast electorate.
Said Williams: “Typically, when we asked for something to get done, with Kiri it would happen. Almost straightaway she could talk to other ministers and get that particular ministry to act.”
He said he had been impressed with Allan from the get-go when first meeting her after Anne Tolley’s departure back in 2020.
He said the Enhanced Taskforce Green project was one initiative she championed for people struggling to secure staff to help clean up after Gabrielle. It enabled local councils to engage with Work and Income to secure workers to help with clean-up projects. It included a wide range of eligible people, from students to beneficiaries and displaced workers impacted by the event.
More recently, Williams said, he credited her with getting the low-interest loan scheme over the line for growers and farmers. The government has offered to support banks to grant lower interest loans of up to $10 million over five years and carry 80% of the credit risk. If a bank won’t lend to a particular person the government will provide loans of up to $4m, deferring interest for 10 years.
“We were looking for a hand up, not a handout, and she helped us get that over the line. It came at a time when the big banks were a bit slow and their rates were high, although more are on board now.”
Williams said he admired Allan’s hard work and the skills she had brought to the region right from her initial role as minister for emergency management.
“And she also had to deal with a bout of cancer.”
Allan took leave in April 2021, returning cancer-free late that same year.
He said regardless of who wins the next election, they were unlikely to have a seat at the cabinet table.
In terms of her being able to return to such a high-profile role, Williams said he’d “never say never”.
“She would have to want to do it. But it could also be some time away, say there was a change of government you could be looking at six years.
“It comes down to whoever takes over as the new MP, and how the region feels about them.”
He said it was possible there could well be work at a local level that took advantage of her many skills, while also being less stressful and lower profile.