March 12, 2018

Farmers dealing with aftermath of Cyclone Gita

While much of the country is now bracing for incoming cyclone Hola, farmers in the Taranaki area are still cleaning up from cyclone Gita.

The storm which hit the area late last month cut power to more than 15,000 homes, caused significant water-shortages and brought down fences, trees and parts of buildings.

Fonterra farmer Paul Duffy was facing a huge clean up and was amazed when members of the Fonterra Emergency Response team arrived to help him out.

“It really blew me away, they came straight in and said what can we do to help? It took a couple days for them to do all the work. If it had been up to myself and the staff it would have taken months! I really appreciated it.”

Around 50 per cent of dairy farms in Taranaki were affected, with 300 dairy farms in the Opunake area worst hit.

Head of Farm Source in Taranaki, Scott Walls, says the Farm Source and Emergency Response Team (ERT) have been working hard since the storm to make sure farmers get the help they need.

“Our focus remains on identifying the needs of our farmers, figuring out how we can help them, and where we can’t, connecting them with someone who can. It’s going to take everyone working together to get our farms back to where they were before the storm.”

National ERT Coordinator, Kevin Lockley says having responders on the ground in the first few hours after a major storm is critical to alleviating the health and safety risks to our farmers and their animals. 

“In addition to removing fallen trees and reinstating fences, our volunteers are checking in on the well-being of our farmers and their animals. They know better than anyone that Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. After a major storm blows through, it can quickly become overwhelming for a farmer who has damaged fencing, collapsed sheds, and ruined crops.”

The ERT team in Taranaki is just one of the Co-op’s 11 teams nationwide. Across the country there are 129 employees who voluntarily join. While ERT’s primary function is to support Fonterra sites, they also make it a priority to respond to both community and national disasters, providing relief for those in need. Teams were crucial in the clean-up of cyclone Debbie and the Christchurch earthquakes.

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