Culverden sheep and beef farmer and B+LNZ Director Phil Smith says it is far from business as usual, with many farmers struggling to carry out seasonal work – such as tailing, calf marking, weaning, drafting, dipping and shearing – with broken land and infrastructure.
Water supplies and access continue to be problematic, with major earthworks being carried out on many farms. Slips and crevasses make stock work much harder and slower, while limited road access means sale and finishing stock are travelling long distances at higher transport costs.
Smith says most EQC Geotech reports will not be carried out until the New Year, which will further slow the repair and rebuild process.
The earthquake happened at a time when farmers’ incomes are low, particularly following two years of drought.
“Overdrafts are near peak at this time of the year, before lamb income starts coming in,” says Smith.
Lamb and wool prices are projected to be lower than last season, which offers little comfort to farmers.
Many homes were destroyed or badly damaged, leaving families living in shearers’ quarters and staff accommodation, with no indication of when their homes will be repaired or rebuilt.
Smith says farmers are worried that the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) grant will go nowhere near covering their costs, as they have already spent significant amounts of money on essential repairs. But he believes there may be other avenues through which farmers can access funds. On a positive note, Smith says communities have rallied together and farmers are using their own networks to get work done.
Regular rainfall has meant that, while the drought has not broken, there is plenty of feed around and stock is in good condition. Lamb schedule prices are holding, due to slower growth rates and a grass market keeping store prices up.
B+LNZ has convened an expert technical group to support land and pasture recovery. This group will include geotech, soils, land remediation and pasture specialists. It will link to a coordinated extension and communications programme for farmers in the earthquake region.
Marlborough farmer Fraser Avery says the timing of the earthquake could not have been worse for farmers in the region, who were just starting to recover from three years of drought.
“It’s been a long time since the mood in this area has been so low.”
There has been significant land movement throughout the region, but it is particularly bad around the Clarence area.
Avery was positive about the way farmers and communities have come together to help and support each other.
“There is always adversity in farming but it’s how we deal with it that defines us.”
Avery urges farmers to focus on the positives, work through the process and be willing to accept help.
"Accepting help can be tough emotionally, but it makes a huge difference to helping you get through.”