Farmer and policeman use tractor for rescue operation

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A Kawakawa farmer using his trusty tractor has rescued drivers after they trapped by flood waters during the storm that hit Northland last night.

Senior Sergeant Peter Robinson came across two cars stranded by flood waters at the bottom of Lemon's Hill on State Highway 11, Kawakawa, at 6am today.

The drivers of both cars were trapped by the flood. At the same time local farmer Harry Shepherd was driving his tractor on his way to move some cows. Mr Robinson enlisted the help of Mr Shepherd to rescue the trapped motorists.

Mr Robinson climbed into the front end loader of the tractor and Mr Shepherd drove slowly towards the cars through the floodwaters.

By this time the water was about one metre deep and rising. The current was moving quite quickly, so urgent action was needed to get the people out.

Mr Shepherd drove the tractor into the flood water and Mr Robinson stood in the loader and pulled the people to safety.

As he managed to get the female driver from her car, the car floated off.

Mr Shepherd said the experienced police officer did really well.

"He was very careful and managed to calm the lady down as he got near her. He convinced her to get into the bucket with him, which wasn't easy. Her car got taken away by the current just after we got her in. I was glad to help out. It really made my day."

Acting Far North Area Commander Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston said Mr Shepherd was a "hero farmer".

"The situation had the potential to become very serious"

Mr Shepherd, 74, has lived in the area for 51 years and this is the second time he has come to the rescue during floods.

In the 100-year flood of 2007 Mr Shepherd got up in the night to rescue a group that had been washed away in their vehicle.

The river had flooded all the paddocks and the car was stranded out in the middle.

On that occasion the river was too deep for a tractor, so Mr Shepherd took his boat out and motored across to rescue the group one at a time.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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