Cyclone Gabrielle: Farmers shifting stock, relying on generators

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DairyNZ’s farm performance manager, Sarah Speight, says dairy farmers need power to keep their milking sheds running and some in Northland are now relying on generators.
Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Some Northland farmers are using generators to keep their dairy sheds running, as Cyclone Gabrielle causes widespread power outages in the region.

As many as 18,500 properties were without power today after strong winds bought down lines overnight. Northpower has signalled some outages could last as long as three or four days.

DairyNZ farm performance manager Sarah Speight said this was affecting dairy farmers in the region who needed power to keep their milking sheds running.

Not everyone had access to back-up generators and some farmers were considering walking herds long distances to use neighbour’s sheds, Speight said.

DairyNZ hoped dairy farms would be amongst the customers that lines companies prioritised for getting back online.

“Really hoping that the power companies can connect these guys up, so that we can minimise the impact of the power outages on-farm.”

Speight said while wind damage, power outages and some small disruptions to milk collection were the issues the organisation was hearing about from farmers at the moment, the weather event was still unfolding and it expected the situation to intensify.

Coromandel farmers brace themselves

Coromandel’s Federated Farmers president, and deputy chief of the local volunteer fire service, Rob Craw, said by Monday morning the severe weather had already brought lots of trees down, but the worst was yet to come for the region.

MetService said up to half a metre of rain was expected about the ranges in the Coromandel Peninsula between Sunday night and Tuesday morning.

Craw said farmers had been given enough time to prepare and shift stock and now all they could do was wait for the weather to pass.

“Everyone’s taken proactive approaches,” he said.

He said with so much rain forecast to fall on what was already sodden land, damage was expected.

Fast-flowing water and falling trees were a big safety risk, Craw said, he urged people to stay home as that would help reduce the pressure on emergency services.

“The more you go out and about, the more you risk yourself, and the more risk it puts on us to go and help you,” he said.

Tairāwhiti prepares for more forestry slash challenges

In Tairāwhiti, farmers near Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay are expecting Cyclone Gabrielle to cause land damage and more issues with forestry slash.

MetService has issued a red warning for Gisborne north of Tolaga Bay, where up to 450mm of rain is expected between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

The community is still recovering after forestry debris blocked waterways and damaged properties during Cyclone Hale in early January.

Federated Farmers Gisborne president, Toby Williams, said forestry slash was still sitting in waterways from the previous cyclone and another severe weather event was the last thing they needed.

Williams said rural residents in flood-prone areas were being urged to take their safety seriously, and consider heading into town to stay with friends or family if necessary.

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