Sunday, December 3, 2023

Consent ruling sought as Gabrielle clean-up continues

Neal Wallace
Exemption from resource consent process would help speed cyclone recovery, says Feds.
Federated Farmers’ Hawke’s Bay president Jim Galloway says the Pātoka and Tūtira districts remain effectively isolated due to damaged bridges. File photo
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Federated Farmers is still waiting for a definitive answer on whether farmers will get dispensation from the resource consent process as they mop up from the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Feds’ Hawke’s Bay president, Jim Galloway, said an initial request to the government for an exemption so that tracks, culverts and bridges can be repaired, has not been declined but neither has it been approved.

Galloway said the Hawke’s Bay regional council is talking about introducing retrospective resource consent, but he said with winter coming, farmers need to get on with rebuilding their farms and restoring access.

The biggest challenge facing farmers impacted by the cyclone remains access, an issue becoming more acute as they wean calves and start destocking and preparing for winter.

Galloway said the Pātoka and Tūtira districts remain effectively isolated due to damaged bridges.

Farmers and growers in Pātoka are ferrying stock, grapes and produce across the Tūtaekuri River using a tractor and trailer.

“It’s not a simple or fast process, it’s not a huge amount but it’s something,” he said.

An isolated wine grower has used the makeshift access to send $500,000 worth of grapes to a winery.

In the Gisborne-Wairoa district, acting Federated Farmers president Charlie Reynolds said farmers are starting to walk stock out to points where they can be loaded onto trucks.

“It is getting to the point where stock are starting to eat winter feed,” he said.

Galloway said the mood of farming families varies, but some are struggling with being unable to leave their farms and constantly surrounded by reminders of the work they face.

“Some have been stuck on their farms for three and a half weeks, unable to go anywhere,” he said.

Both farming leaders said the support from the rest of New Zealand has been heartening.

Reynolds said 20,000 bales of baleage have been promised so far.

Galloway said due to the lack of storage, donors are asked to register their donation through the Federated Farmers feedline and once transport and a recipient are organised, it can be dispatched.

“We really appreciate the offer, but please keep hold of it until we need it.”

Galloway said some farmers have bought diggers to accelerate the recovery, but he is nervous they may struggle to drive and handle them correctly and safely.

He said among the 600-strong Farmy Army are qualified digger drivers who are ready and able to do the work.