West Coast farmers reeling from losing animals in 'unprecedented' flooding

Some farmers are reeling from the loss of their animals after “unprecedented” flooding in parts of the South Island over the weekend, a West Coast farmer says. 

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Bede O’Connor says he saw water in places he’d “never ever” seen before. Source: Breakfast

Bede O’Connor, the president of Federated Farmers in the region, said he saw water rise to places he’d “never ever” seen before.

He said farmers in the region were warned about torrential rainfall on Friday, ahead of the worst of the wild weather on Saturday. 

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Cattle lost, paddocks covered in silt but farmers remain resilient

At that point, he said “we all just shift our stock to where we hope are safe or high places”. 

But, because water levels were higher than farmers had predicted, O’Connor said some were “hit pretty hard” after losing “significant” numbers of stock. 

“That made things difficult,” he said. 

“We all farm because we like the land and we like the stock.”

Flooding in Buller. Source: Jamie Cleine

O’Connor’s farm is next to the Buller River, and 40 hectares of it is now covered in silt. 

He said he was waiting for more water to dry up before deciding what to do next. He estimated it would take about six months to get back about 60 per cent of his grass. 

Bede O'Connor. Source: Breakfast

“We’ll return, we’ll fix things and make changes … we’ll make the best of it.”

The weekend’s weather was the third major flood event in New Zealand this year. Scientists warn extreme flood events will become more frequent in the country because the climate is warming.

O’Connor said farmers would just have to “change our farming operations to match if we have these events on a regular basis”. 

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University of Auckland’s Asaad Shamseldin says big floods in NZ could be the “new norm”. Source: Breakfast

O’Connor, who is the younger brother of the Agriculture Minister, said he was hopeful the Government would front with more money as the full extent of flood damage is revealed. 

He said the Government’s initial contribution of $600,000 for people affected by the floods “certainly will” help. 

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Govt sets aside $600k for those affected by wild weather

“It’s always good to have the support of big brother. We might disagree on the odd thing, but he’s very supportive of the Buller community.”