Wednesday, 08 May 2024 10:55

Off the radar

Written by  Peter Burke
A picture taken on Toby William’s farm after Cyclone Gabrielle shows the extent of the damage. A picture taken on Toby William’s farm after Cyclone Gabrielle shows the extent of the damage.

A year on and the problems created by Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle has largely dropped off the radar of media and politicians.

As Toby Williams rightly says, the story is no longer 'sexy' and the plight of East Coast farmers is largely forgotten. This mirrors concerns expressed recently by Wairoa Mayor Craig Little about the slow progress in repairing SH2 south of his town.

Back on the farms, the problem of repairing damaged fences is not just about still-moving hillsides. The sheep and beef sector is experiencing one of its all time lows with lamb prices down and input costs up. Beef+Lamb NZ is predicting that the best profit that sheep and beef farmers will make this year is around $60,000, but Williams believes that many won't see that sort of money if they have high debt levels.

He says fencing costs have doubled in the past two years and believes it will cost him in the order of $200,000 to $300,000 to get his farm back to what it was.

"The real challenge is: how do you put your farm together when you have no money? It's very hard to go farming when your fences leak and when you can't keep your stock where they need to be. For example, we put a mob of ewes into a paddock and half of them disappeared and then we pulled 50 ram lambs from a mob of ewes the other day because they got through fences that were damaged overnight by rain," he says.

With farmers struggling to addord fencing materials, Federated Farmers is organising a fundraising event so that farmers can get fence posts and wire free of charge. Williams and his team have persuaded Parliament's netball and rugby team to come to Gisborne on the weekend of May 25 to play a series of matches against Fed Farmers invitational teams to help raise the money.

He says they have sold the sponsorship for the team jerseys and got good deals from local suppliers and fantastic support from FMG and Woolworths NZ, and Feds will pick up the administration costs.

"One hundred percent of the money raised will go on posts and wire," he says.

Williams says he hopes this event as well as raising money to help needy farmers, will also raise the profile of the problems that still exist on the East Coast and will likely continue for several years. He hopes it will give hope to farmers whose spirits are low.

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