A South Canterbury farmer whose property is close to a lagoon lost 12 bulls and yearlings when floodwater inundated his farm for the fifth time. By: ELENA MCPHEE
Waters rose quickly when the region was struck by torrential rain on Friday, with a state of emergency declared.
Makikihi farmer Geoff Wallace said he lost three large, 2-year-old bulls and nine, 1-year old bulls to the flood. He said 367 hectares of his farm was still underwater on Monday morning.
Most cattle drowned, and some died of pneumonia, he said.
“I’ve been here eight years and this is the fifth time it’s been totally flooded,” Wallace said.
“I’m getting a little bit sick of it. We need something done.”
His property, on Hook Swamp Rd, is about 1km north of Wainono Lagoon, which is nationally significant for its birdlife and native fish.
Water streamed from the farms around him, via tributaries which were supposed to flow towards the lagoon – but the channels could not contain the water, which ended up pooling on his property.
“I came down the road in the Land Rover [on Friday night] but it was too deep.”
On Saturday morning Wallace woke to find the water level had risen again – with some of his bulls standing in three feet of water.
The silty, “tea-coloured” water would stay around for two or three weeks before it dropped low enough to be drained back into the lagoon.
Wallace said it would put a heavy nitrate load from his farms and other farms in the district into the protected waterway.
“The Government has said to us to not discharge nutrients – this makes a total nonsense of it.
“For not a lot of money they could fix this.”
He predicted he would have to bring in $40,000 worth of supplementary feed to see his stock through the winter.
“The only thing I laugh about is now the swans can’t eat the grass.”
He was in the process of building six sheds, which would house the remaining cattle.
Wallace said he was very grateful to his neighbours and the Waimate District Council for allowing him to feed his animals on the road, which meant his farm was currently only accessible from the south.
One of Wallace’s neighbours, who did not want to be named, said Hook Swamp Rd looked like a river on Friday.
Wallace said his immediate neighbours had been flooded as well, but most of their water ended up on his farm.
The Department of Conservation’s Geraldine office has been contacted for comment about the lagoon.
Federated Farmers Mark Adams said around the district repairing damage to fences and flood banks and unblocking culverts would be time-consuming and inconvenient.
The ground was so wet that any rain was going to cause problems, and another front coming through on Thursday would affect farmers in lower areas.
“Downland farmers will bear the brunt of it.”
He did not know of other farmers who had suffered stock losses.
“Some of those low-lying properties bore the brunt of the wall of water that came down.”
Calving season had only just begun, and it was too early for lambs.
Already saturated paddocks would be causing “real logistical issues” for dairy farmers in lower-lying places.
Many of them would be preparing to bring their stock, who would be about to calve, back to sodden farms after taking them elsewhere for the winter.
The people wintering them would want to get rid of them, but Adams thought the farmers would be reluctant to take them back.