IT has been a challenging year for Southland farmers.
From major flooding in February, to the repercussions of Covid-19 – last week’s snow blast and flooding just days later has left many farmers at their wits’ end.
Heavy rain caused surface flooding in parts of Southland last weekend, particularly in Invercargill and Riverton, as paddocks were soaked and several roads closed.
However, the region was spared the much heavier impact of February’s river-related flooding, which hit Northern Southland harder and was caused by heavy rain in the headwaters.
Even being a smaller hit, farmers in the district were the most affected with their crops and stock.
Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt said the numbers of stock loss might never be known, but those living in Northern and Eastern Southland would have been affected the most.
Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter believed the cost of stock loss would not be much different from other challenging winters.
“I haven’t heard about excessive stock losses by any means… not like 2010 when we lost so much.
“Certainly there would been some vulnerable lambs that would have passed away but they could have anyway, we don’t know.”
She acknowledged it had been a very challenging year for farmers with the “continuous elements of the weather”.
“It is really hard to get the stock on the paddocks… trying to move their stock, and keep them fed is the main challenge.”
Agribusiness Consultants sheep and beef consultant Deane Carson said farmers were not prepared for the weekend’s flooding, due to a lack of warning from authorities.
“People prepare as well as they can, but we need better alert systems.
“I’ve had a few clients say they wouldn’t have done anything if it wasn’t for the conversations they had with their neighbours and rural networks.”
Because warnings were not issued as fast as they should have been, people felt they were dealing with it on their own, which meant they took unnecessary risks, he said.
“Farmers were swimming to save their stock… there were tractors having to bail out because the water got too deep.”
One of his clients lost 30 sheep, a “significant” financial loss of about $4500.
Emergency Management Southland (EMS) controller Angus McKay said communication between weather forecasters and flood response agencies did need to improve when it came to managing big weather events.
He said EMS staff used MetService forecasts as a guide, but rain warnings this time did not indicate a “real risk” days before the flooding.
“There’s a set criteria for watches and warnings but the rain warnings didn’t cross that threshold. It turned out that 50mm-60mm of rain was enough to cause all these problems.”
Environment Southland, the body which sets the flood warning criteria for the region, was approached for comment on its alert systems but was unable to respond before the Southland Express went to print.
Southland District Council senior staff member Hartley Hare said it was still assessing the financial impact of the flooding.
However, early figures suggested it would cost about $80,000 from its coffers.
This amount would be much smaller than the billions spent on infrastructure following the February floods, he said.
Due to residual moisture from February’s floods, there was more surface flooding this time.
“In February, we had entire sections of roads being washed away.
“It was the largest one we have experienced in recent years.”
The costs for repairs would be used to “tidy up” infrastructure, including roads, signs and damage to trees.
Southland Rural Support Trust would host seven “Brunch on Us” events around the region, specifically in less-visited rural areas, to check how farmers were coping and support their well-being.
- To get in contact with the trust, phone 0800 787 254.