Tuesday, 10 August 2021 08:55

Buller's long road ahead

Written by  Nigel Malthus
The impact of the flooding in the Buller region can be seen on Joan Hamilton's farm, on State Highway 67A, heading out to Carters Beach, near Westport. Photo: Jules Anderson Photography. The impact of the flooding in the Buller region can be seen on Joan Hamilton's farm, on State Highway 67A, heading out to Carters Beach, near Westport. Photo: Jules Anderson Photography.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine says the district's recovery from the massive flood, which tore through Westport and surrounding farmland, will be long and complex.

While many farms were flooded, the biggest problem will be around accommodation for displaced townsfolk. Some 380 Westport houses are now yellow-stickered and about 70 red-stickered - which was "huge" for a town of only 4,500 people.

A porta-cabin village is being considered for their medium-term needs. However, in the meantime, people are taking up commercial accommodation - making it unavailable for tradesmen or for the needs of the rest of the economy.

"We were short of tradesmen and places for them to live before this happened," Cleine told Rural News.

There will also be supply chain issues around getting in carpets, kitchen units and other building supplies.

A farmer himself, Cleine says that about 30 farms were affected, about six of them seriously.

"Most of these six have had their farm houses flooded as well. So obviously they are dealing with all those same family issues and accommodation issues that people in town are dealing with," he says. "And they're on the brink of calving, if not already underway."

While his own farm was not directly affected, Cleine says the district is very wet and he is having to feed out some days.

"It's certainly been a wet July, that's for sure."

Cleine understands that only one farm, about 40km upstream at the top of the Lower Buller Gorge, suffered serious stock losses.

That farm belongs to former Westland Milk Products chair Pete Morrison; it is understood the farm lost essentially all of a herd, with hundreds washed out to the sea.

Morrisson has told the NZ Herald that this was the first time in his ownership that the river had risen so high.

"They should have been alright where they were, it [the water] just got that much higher and they floated away pretty quick."

Cleine says it was "just a much bigger flood than normal." He says the biggest positive is the way the community banded together, and the support Buller has received from all around New Zealand.

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A Wesport mother and daughter team, who only recently bought a small dairy farm bordering the Buller River, are just one of many still struggling to get back on their feet after the huge flood of mid-July.


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