As rural Bay of Plenty braces itself for more heavy rainfall today, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working alongside Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM), the local Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, industry bodies, and volunteers to help farmers and growers get through the floods.
Farmers are taking the latest forecasts seriously and evacuating livestock to higher ground again. NIWA forecaster Ben Noll says New Zealand may see another round of heavy rainfall from today as Tropical Cyclone Cook tracks southeastward in the open waters of the South Pacific.
"A plume of heavy downpours will target the North Island from today ranging from Northland all the way down to the Central Plateau," says Ben. "There are 2 peaks – one late this afternoon and this evening and the second tomorrow afternoon and evening. The areas most affected are likely to be Bay of Plenty and Coromandel where rainfall may generally range from 200mm to 400mm in the hardest-hit areas."
"Soils that are already saturated, and bloated waterways mean a higher risk of flooding, as water may run off and not be absorbed by the ground."
The Bay of Plenty Rural Support Trust has been working with Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and the current rural adverse event network (Federated Farmers, Fonterra, ANZ and DairyNZ) to visit every farm in the affected area and carry out a rapid needs assessment.
Visit details are being put into a real-time app as they go door to door, building on feedback from the Kaikoura/Hurunui/Marlborough earthquake to reduce repeat visits by different groups and volunteers, and making sure that information on needs gets action right away.
With 3,500 head of cattle already evacuated from Ex-Cyclone Debbie’s floodwaters since Thursday, ongoing inundation and road closures are hindering access for milk collection and the local Fonterra factory has suspended operation.
"Fonterra and Open Country have contacted all their suppliers and are making sure that every dairy farm has a safe place for their animals, evacuation help if they need it, and a way to milk safely and have that milk collected," says MPI Director Resource Policy Kate Hellstrom.
"Farmers are also being reminded of the boil water notice in place, which for those milking means extra safety measures need to be in place for plant and silo cleaning."
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson says, "The focus at this stage is on pumping water from orchards to enable harvest to take place and to limit the long-term damage to the plants. The increased chance of additional flooding from further rain would make this task more difficult."
Kiwifruit growers with significant damage or who require assistance are being asked to contact NZKGI on 0800 25 25 05. Other numbers are:
- local Rural Support Trust – call 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) with information on the impacts on your farm, or requests for personal help
- Federated Farmers' – call 0800 32 76 46, option 3 for feed offers or requests, or option 4 for other on-farm help, including stock movements
- HortNZ – growers other than kiwifruit growers can call 0508 46 78 69.
- DairyNZ – for dairy farmers, 0800 4324 7969.
Other producers should contact their industry body if they have questions.
A flood recovery response event for all rural residents is on today from 1pm to 4pm at Awakeri Hall, White Pine Bush Road. A collection of organisations and networks will be there with a BBQ, for information and help for rural people as we begin flood recovery. All rural residents are welcome to drop in for a chat and something to eat.