New Zealand - Farmers reporting of total crop losses and dead stock, insurers say

01.02.2023 167 views

Entire crops have been destroyed after flooding on farms in the upper North Island rural insurers FMG says.

Head of claims Nicki Mackay said assessors were evaluated damage in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty, but would not get a complete picture of losses yet as more wet weather was forecast.

Widespread flood damage was reported after Auckland received its highest recorded rainfall in one night last Friday.

Road closures affected assessors' ability to get to some areas, with the insurer prioritising areas that were had the worst damage, Mackay said.

There were reports of fully flooded rural properties, submerged vehicles, total loss of farm crops, and loss of stock and produce, she said.

Te Kohanga dairy farmer Jonelle Hewitt, said she and husband Martin Hewitt used four flood pumps to clear water from paddocks on Friday night, and only switched them off on Wednesday.

A single pump could pump more than 1 million litres of water per hour into the Waikato River, she said.

The farm was at the bottom of a range of hills and received a lot of runoff, Hewitt said.

Nearly 300mm of rain had fallen since Friday, she said.

A few hours before a stopbank overflowed, stock was moved to higher ground, Hewitt said.

The couple would be able to claim insurance for damaged fences and races, she said.

A bedroom in their farmhouse was flooded, along with damage to tools in garages. But the farm and animals were their first priority, Hewitt said.

Since Friday, they also used diggers non-stop to clear drains and get water flowing out of paddocks, she said.

Rural portfolios executive manager at insurer Vero, Sonya Whitney, said since Saturday a number of rural claims had been received, mostly for damage to houses. 

People in rural areas should check bridges for structural damage after flood water receded, and clear debris and check culverts to ensure they remained intact, Whitney said.

Ministry for Primary Industries, director of rural communities and farming support Nick Story said the ministry had not received any requests from farmers for recovery assistance.

Feed supplies remained satisfactory, Story said. 

Milk collection affected on some farms, he said.

Flooding in Pukekohe had affected some vegetable growers and the ministry and Horticulture NZ were working to assess damage, he said. 

A Pukekohe grower reported that about 10 tonnes of onions were washed onto a neighbours property.

DairyNZ farm performance general manager Sarah Speight said such wet weather was unprecedented for this time of year and was challenging after an already wet winter and spring.

There was serious damage to a number of dairy farms in pockets of Northland, south Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Speight said.

Farmers lost fences, races, bridges and had feed crops and stored feed damaged, Speight said.

Fonterra national transport and logistics general manager Paul Phipps said despite widespread flooding there was minimal disruption to milk collection. 

The worst affected area the Coromandel peninsula where flooding and road slips had made collections more difficult, Phipps said.

SPCA chief executive Gabby Clezy, said SPCA was in contact with the Ministry for Primary Industries, which coordinated the emergency response for animal displacement.

“If you need to evacuate, you should take your pets with you. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them.”

SPCA inspectors only responded to urgent welfare concerns at this stage, she said.

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