As if the recent deluge wasn't enough for dairy farmers in flood-prone Hikurangi Swamp, they are now being forced to spend up to $5000 a day feeding their cows.
It will take days, if not weeks, for floodwaters to recede completely before affected farmers are able to re-plant grass which won't be ready for grazing until October.
Farmer Geoff Crawford has had to send 400 cows away after widespread flooding destroyed feed and other essentials, making it impossible to look after them.
The swamp, just north of Whangārei, received 400mm of rain in eight hours or 580mm in two days from a once-in-a-500-year storm a couple of weeks ago that wreaked havoc across Northland.
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With 400 cows away until October, Crawford is not only losing $5000 a day in income but an equal amount in buying feed.
"Feed is costing me $5000 a day. I have to fully feed 600 cows that are calving and it's very expensive. There's no grass and having spent $100,000 growing them before the storm hit, I'll have to spend a similar amount doing the same once the floodwaters recede," he said.
He said 300ha of his 500ha farm was still underwater on Monday this week and all the water to drain out in the next two to three weeks.
"I expect the water to start moving quickly because our farm is quite low. A couple more floodgates are making the difference," he said.
Another farmer, Evan Smeath, had 10ha still underwater on Monday but said with the pumping station working quite well, water should drain in another week.
Of the 6500ha of farmland at the swamp, he said the best part of 1000 ha was still flooded.
"It's costing a lot of money to put feed on. I personally got 140 tonnes of extra feed to get through winter because we fed a lot during the drought that we normally feed now," Smeath said.
Northland Federated Farmers acting dairy chairman Matt Long said $5000 a day was a lot of money for flood-prone farmers in Hikurangi Swamp, who have also lost new grass growth.
"They are looking to their banks for support, as well as the Whangārei District Council for rates remission. I'd urge the council to look at helping these farmers."
Long said the recent deluge solved farmers' immediate water needs but the ground could easily turn dry during spring.
The feed situation on his farm was very tight and Long said if the silage he bought in November didn't last through winter, he'd have to buy palm kennel.
Whangārei District Council revenue manager Alison Puchaux said to recognise the hardship faced by swamp scheme farmers this year, WDC decided not to raise the rates on the Hikurangi Swamp Scheme for the 2020/21 financial year.
She said farmers affected by the flooding could also arrange to delay their rates payments on a plan that would prevent any penalties being added.
"All ratepayers, including farmers, who need to delay payments are welcome to contact our rates team, who will work on a plan to lessen immediate hardship."