Canterbury farmers feeling forgotten 3 weeks on

It has been three weeks since widespread flooding hit Canterbury and rural communities are still waiting on any sign of tangible support from the Government, the MP for Selwyn, Nicola Grigg says.

“The Prime Minister and Minister for Primary Industries visited severely affected farms near Ashburton two weeks ago. They announced it was a ‘medium scale adverse event’, took some photos and left again.

“Unfortunately the inconsequential $500,000 that declaration freed up can only be used for what are essentially advisory services. Farmers have now spent three weeks working themselves to the bone to clear up flood damage – much of which could have been avoided had ECan, the regional council, done its job and kept waterways clear of shingle.

“To be clear, farmers are not looking for handouts - but much of the damage has occurred in areas where they have been paying rates to ECan to maintain and clear waterways and, in many places, this work has not been carried out for years. Given ECan has just signed off a hefty 12.6 per cent rate raise, my expectation is that this will now become a priority workstream for the Council.

“Farmers on the ground are telling me ECan is hiding behind the RMA and trying to tell landowners it doesn’t have a mandate to step in now and clean up the mess. In my view, that is a convenient excuse.

“There is no reason why, three weeks on from the disaster and having plenty of information and data, ECan’s chair couldn’t go to the Government and request emergency powers to override RMA law to get the job done. It is time that the chair and her counsellors recognise their elected responsibilities and start acting on behalf of the people most adversely impacted by this event.

“I have repeatedly called on the Government to pull all the levers it has at its disposal to help farmers restore their land and their businesses as quickly as possible. Private business is having to pick up the tab for a public entity’s mismanagement of rivers across Canterbury.

“If it really wanted to help, the Government could divert Civil Defence funding to help with earthworks, land remediation, fence restoration and the lost productivity being caused to those who’ve lost land, feed and stock.

“The Prime Minister is expected to make a second visit this week and I hope this time she comes prepared to offer some real help,” Ms Grigg says.