Cyclone-hit growers are desperate for help and say they’re feeling abandoned by the Government.
It’s been more than two months since Cyclone Gabrielle destroyed their crops and they said after an initial flurry of action, the support has dried up.
The industry has now written a letter to the Government calling for action they said is overdue.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and seven other ministers, said while the industry appreciated the Government’s swift action at first, they now urgently need direction and further support.
Colin Bond, CEO of NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc, said it’s an uncertain time for growers wondering whether to plant crops for next season or not.
“They need to know whether or not other assistance is available so they can make decisions about whether it’s worth continuing to operate their orchards.”
Growers like Stu Kilmister, who is facing a $2 million bill for damage and crop loss at his apple orchard.
“It feels like a bad dream. We’ve got nothing, everything’s gone. We came out of the flood with only our clothes on,” he said.
As winter starts to bite, Kilmister is moving into a shipping container with his wife and two kids.
“I tell the kids it’ll be like going camping.”
He’s finding it hard to stay positive because he said growers have been abandoned by the Government.
“It’s just been nothing – the silence has been deafening. We don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
Cyclone Gabrielle caused widespread devastation to crops in Hawke’s Bay, Tairāwhiti, Northland, and northern Manawatū.
Growers urgently want to know what the Government’s plan is. The entire fruit and vegetable sector has written to the Government calling for more funding, quicker repairs to infrastructure, and fast-tracked decisions about land use.
“Winter is fast approaching and growers have to start making decisions about future years crops,” Bond said.
The letter tells Hipkins that the delays are causing growers frustration, fear and stress. It’s something that Kilmister knows all too well.
“We can’t plan anything, you know. The longer they leave it, everyone thinks they’re being hung out to dry.”
However, Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson said that’s not the case.
“There’ll be more support to come, I have no doubt about that. What we’ve got to make sure it is targeted in the right way.”
Many growers have lost most, if not all, of their crops – which is their income – and they’re struggling to pay wages, clean up, and replant. But the Government said it is working on a plan.
“We also need banks and other lenders involved as well, so that work’s underway,” Robertson said.
And growers are desperate to see it.