Delays in announcing specific aid packages for cyclone-hit Hawke’s Bay farmers and growers is due to government awareness that it is setting a precedent.
Cyclone recovery ministerial lead Kieran McAnulty said in an interview that even though the disaster is extremely complex, final packages will set a precedent for future extreme weather events, so they have to be robust.
“We’re dealing with an incredibly complex situation that is setting a precedent for other events, so we need to get it right.”
Farmers and growers have been frustrated at delays in the government’s aid package to help recovery following Cyclone Gabrielle, specifically for damaged or destroyed infrastructure that cannot be insured.
“Uncertainty is the most debilitating thing for people.”
McAnulty said he understands their concern, but he said the response has been complicated by differing damage between regions, within regions and between properties.
This week land classifications will be announced that will provide some certainty for landowners about whether they can remain in their homes or will have to leave.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor are in discussions with sector groups to finalise an aid package.
A timetable for its release is still to be finalised.
McAnulty said this was the biggest-ever weather event in NZ with Hawke’s Bay hit the hardest, but the government decided early after the cyclone to ensure the response was locally led with support from central government.
The government did not want to act too early by making promises only to have to renege or make changes to due to new circumstances.
Support has been given to remove silt and debris from farms or orchards, to reconnect communities and repair roads.
But narrowing aid down to individual farms or orchards is more complicated.
Orchards that have been inundated with slash, including tanalised posts and timber, have permission to burn it. Burning treated timber is not usually allowed.
McAnulty said the Rural Support Trust has been given money to assist with the wellbeing of rural people, but he has noticed that small groups of farmers are helping each other.
He has asked the Ministry for Primary Industry to use these new and existing networks to distribute aid.