Taxpayers help tourist industry recover from damage done by a deluge and farmers deal with the effects of drought

It’s been a quiet weekend in the Beehive.  Taxpayers nevertheless have played – or will play – a role in the two latest announcements, both dealing with the adverse economic impacts of the weather.

Too much rain in one case.  Not enough in the other.

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan announced the official reopening of the Milford Track, after flood repairs.   From today, the entire 54km of track is open, from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point.

$13.7million was announced in Budget 2020 for repairing vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed in heavy flooding in the region last February.

Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor announced further funding for feed support services and new animal welfare coordinators to help farmers who continue to feel the effects of an extended drought.

The Government has invested $19 million this year in rural communities affected by drought.

O’Connor said more than $350,000 has been approved to extend feed planning and coordination services until June 30 next year.

Allan enthused that hikers booked on the popular Great Walk can now complete the walk end-to-end for the first time since early February.

The Milford Track, along with the nearby Routeburn Track were among 78 tracks damaged when a three -day storm resulted in one-tenth of the region’s average annual rainfall being dumped on northern Fiordland between February 4 – 6.

This sparked a major search and rescue operation, damaged 440 km of tracks and wiped out key infrastructure including parts of the Milford Road, while Lake Howden Hut on the Routeburn track was hit by a landslide in the middle of the night.

“Completing repairs and getting this iconic track back up and running has been a priority for DOC to support the local community and show the area is open and welcoming visitors this summer season,” Kiri Allan says.

But while key repairs to the most damaged sections of the Milford track and bridges have been completed, some minor repair work remains to be done.

The Routeburn track is scheduled to reopen in full from December 7.

On the dry side of the government’s spending commitments, O’Connor recalled that in March this year, he classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event.

“That declaration unlocked Government funding to support farmers and growers. Forecasters are now predicting more trying weather conditions this summer,” Damien O’Connor said.

NIWA has confirmed La Niña could mean below-average rainfall for the South Island and lower North Island and possible flooding in northern parts of the country.

“I have been closely monitoring the situation with officials and we have decided to allocate more than $350,000 to extend feed planning and coordination services until 30 June 2021,” Damien O’Connor said.

He urged farmers to use the free feed planning service and the feed coordination service as extra tools to help give them peace of mind heading into summer.

The services are funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and delivered by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and other specialist providers. They help farmers complete a feed plan and connect farmers who are short of feed with available sources of supplement, such as silage and hay.

The country’s 14 Rural Support Trusts, which received extra funding earlier this year to help regions recover from drought and Covid-19, continue to support farmer wellbeing and help build resilience in rural communities.

Latest from the Beehive

28 NOVEMBER 2020

Support for farmers beefed up ahead of La Niña

Further funding for feed support services and new animal welfare coordinators will help farmers who continue to feel the effects of an extended drought, says Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor.

30 NOVEMBER 2020

Iconic Milford Track officially reopens

One of New Zealand’s premier hikes and a cornerstone of the Te Anau community, the Milford Track has officially reopened.

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