Flood fund barely scratches the surface

The $4 million to help flood-affected farmers around Canterbury is a good start, but not enough – and hopefully not the end, the MP for Selwyn Nicola Grigg says. 

“The Prime Minister has today announced a $4 million relief fund to help farmers clean up the damage caused to them by a huge wet weather event almost a month ago but, as usual, it comes with little detail around where it will go, how it will be distributed, how farmers will apply for it and what the criteria is.

“I’d also be very interested in understanding what metrics the Government used to come to that figure.

“Given the Rural Support Trust – which everyone will agree is a well-placed authority to comment on the scale of the damage – has said that the Ashburton River alone will need $10 million to clear, and ECan will need about $15 million to rectify the damage that flooded rivers have caused to farmland, it seems to me that $4 million will not cover it.

“Nor does the Government appear to have taken into account the massive amount of lost productivity caused to farmers who have lost farmland, stock feed, fences and, even, animals. Most distressingly for them, they are now having to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours clearing up mess that has been very clearly caused by ECan’s woeful mismanagement of local rivers, rather than getting on with the job of farming.

“As I have previously said, 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.

“It is untenable that private businesses should be paying for the negligence of a public agency.

“If the Government had a genuine interest and commitment to the Canterbury region, it would be working hard to rectify that. This region is, after all, one of New Zealand’s greatest economic contributors and the Government needs to show it is prepared to invest in our local primary sector in its hour of need.

“If I were a cynic, I’d suggest the Government support package would be far more generous if these floods had occurred in 2023,” Ms Grigg says.