As Cyclone Gabrielle causes chaos across much of New Zealand, ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron is calling for increased support to farmers facing significant animal welfare and financial problems.

“I’ve been talking to industry leaders and local officials from badly affected rural areas to offer support and suggest increased action be taken for farmers,” says Mr Cameron.

“This is a significant event and the impacts will be far-reaching. Paddocks with stock in them will be flooded, regular milkings and other stockwork will be unable to be completed, and crops will be washed out. I myself will be going home to handmilk 300 cows for possibly up to two weeks until power is restored.

“Its impossible to overstate the cost of this, both mentally and financially. Farmer confidence in New Zealand is already at a historic low, the last thing anyone needed is a natural disaster.

“This is why it is so important for industry leaders and local leaders to offer support and relief where possible. Today I have spoken to industry groups, businesses supplied by farmers, and local politicians to encourage them to support their farmers wherever possible.

“One initiative I am encouraging is for organisations like Fonterra to apply grade relief to farmers who will be unable to resume normal farming practices, but will be faced with significant animal welfare costs and concerns.

“Many farmers won’t be able to perform regular milking. This creates a serious issue for the welfare of the cows, and also means that when they are milked the product will not be of the usual standard and liable to financial penalty. Farmers who are doing everything they can to look after their animals and their livelihoods should not receive a financial penalty from the companies they supply for this.

“I am also encouraging industry leaders to work with local veterinarian practices and provide regular advice to farmers on how best to deal with situations where stock is affected by the flooding and regular farming practice is unable to occur.

“Rural New Zealanders are resilient, but their isolation and reliance on the land means they are particularly susceptible to weather events like this. ACT supports them to the hilt and will continue advocating on their behalf.”

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