Flood-hit farmers face financial drain

By Joseph Aldridge, Mike Barrington

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Heavy rain and flooding continued to cause major problems throughout Northland yesterday with roads closed, slips across the region and farmers facing major financial losses - and more rain is due today.

Flood-hit farmers in the Hikurangi Swamp area are facing major financial losses and months of hard work as a result of the latest deluge, which dumped up to 373.5mm of rain on parts of Northland in less than 48 hours.

With hundreds of paddocks under water, farmers are trying to sell off stock and find feed for those that remain. For dairy farmers just beginning calving, the floodwaters couldn't have come at a worse time.

Jesse Bagley, farm manager on the Lammers farm, was up till midnight Monday shifting cows to higher ground. After a couple of hours sleep, he awoke to find 99 of the farm's 100 paddocks underwater. Because the paddocks could be flooded for days or even weeks, the Lammers were trying to reduce stock numbers.

However, finding feed for the remaining stock, including 300 heavily pregnant cows, was the immediate challenge, Mr Bagley said. Cows will be shifted to higher ground and feed will be brought in, but much was dependant on how quickly the flooded paddocks drain.

"If it takes longer than a week, all the grass will be rotten and dead. Then it will be two weeks of hard-out re-grassing and then a whole month, five weeks, till we can graze that grass."

Mr Bagley said it was two weeks before the waters drained after last year's big January flood and he wasn't expecting the floodwaters to drain any quicker this year.

"It's pretty horrible timing really."

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett, of Wellington, said that a broad low pressure system north of the North Island had the potential to feed moist subtropical air from the Coral Sea over the top of the island today.

Its main impact would be somewhere between Northland and the Bay of Plenty, and it was not expected to be as as violent as the deluge in Northland over the past few days.

"This event may not be as intense or as long as the storm in Northland on Sunday and Monday, but it could affect the North until Thursday," Mr Corbett said.

The deluge has saturated Northland, exceeding March rainfall averages around the region with some areas recording more than two months rain in less than three days.

Kaeo was severely flooded by the 373.5mm of rain which fell in the eastern hills above Tauranga Bay, in 43 hours to 11am yesterday.Average March rainfall at Kaeo is 150mm.

Kerikeri had 263.5mm of rain in 41 hours to 10am yesterday. Average March rainfall there is 130mm.

Whangarei had 217.6mm between noon Sunday and noon yesterday. March average rainfall for the city is 125mm. Puhipuhi, 30km north of Whangarei, had 282mm of rain up to noon yesterday, including 31mm in a one-hour burst. The March average there is 165mm.

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Heavy weather closed railway tracks north of Whangarei and through to Dargaville, but KiwiRail continued its Auckland-Whangarei service.

There were some delays during the Sunday-Monday storm and conditions will be closely monitored today, when more rain is forecast.

KiwiRail communications adviser Jenni Austin said the line north of Whangarei was inspected on Monday and closed because of surface flooding. Another inspection yesterday morning found some track damage from a washout at Whakapara, 30km north of Whangarei.

The damage cost was still being assessed.

- Northern Advocate

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