1492044227863 - Farmers and orchardists brace for Cyclone Cook

Farmers and orchardists brace for Cyclone Cook

Farmers and orchardists in northern New Zealand are bracing themselves for a further bout of bad weather as Cyclone Cook bears down on the country.

In the Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and Hauraki Plains, milk is being sent to Fonterra’s Waikato plants now that the Edgecumbe factory is still out of commission.

A few farms which still cannot be accessed following Cyclone Debbie are having to dump milk into effluent ponds.

Fonterra’s head of farm source Bay of Plenty, Lisa Payne, said milk had been shifted out of the Edgecumbe site.

READ MORE: Edgecumbe residents back on the job despite devastation

“A number of Fonterra staff have returned to the [Edgecumbe] site over the past two days and are making solid progress with the cleaning and recovery effort. It will still be a number of days before we consider returning the site to full operations,” Payne said.

She described it as “business as usual” with milk collection. Although it was nearing the end of the season, fine weather in March had boosted production.

Fonterra’s local Farm Source store remains closed due to the flooding, but the milk processing site had been on raised ground on the opposite side to the town, which bore the brunt of the flooding.

Around Edgecumbe a number of kiwifruit orchards have been flooded but only a “handful” have been severely affected, according to NZ Kiwifruit Growers.

Since the rainfall that accompanied Cyclone Debbie, NZKGI has provided support where necessary, particularly with pumping water off orchards.

NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson said rain and flooding had affected the harvesting of a small number of orchards, but picking had been occurring in breaks between the rain. She noted that although it was harvest time, not all kiwifruit in the affected areas were ready for picking.

The growers organisation would be guided by previous experience with flooding following Cyclone Bola and in 2005.

EastPack operations manager Phil Karl said its Edgecumbe packhouse had opened for a few days but was now closed. Other packhouses in the Bay of Plenty were closing on Thursday because no fruit could be picked as Cyclone Cook moved in.

Fruit from orchards which had been submerged might be affected by diseases and fungi, but the company had good processes to monitor any damage.

While northern North Island has been suffering from extreme events, farmers in North Canterbury are celebrating the arrival of plentiful autumn rain.

Federated Farmers meat and fibre North Canterbury spokesman Dan Hodgen said after three years of drought, the region was recovering.

“You won’t hear anyone here grizzling, that’s for sure. It’s a welcome change, in the context of the last three years the amount of rain we’re receiving is huge.”

Since March more than 200 millimetres had fallen, with 50mm alone on Wednesday and more expected in the next few days. Creeks had finally started to flow.

“The grass is growing so we go into winter with plenty of feed. It’s just the right time of the year to get the rain,” Hodgen said.

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