Photo: Corena Hodgson

I attended a gathering of nearly 150 growers yesterday – fruit, veggies and grapes – convened to hear what was being done on their behalf to get relief from the losses of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Some excellent presentations were made, from dealing with silt to mental well-being.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst opened by describing the advocacy being undertaken by the region’s political leaders to get cash support from Government. In fact, those efforts were to continue Thursday night in a meeting with Recovery (and Finance) Minister Grant Robertson, who happened to be in town (maybe for a Lorde concert?). 

Listening to her accounting, I came away believing that HB’s growers are well-represented in the contest for cash, in a competition that involves other regions as well as a Government wary of setting financial support precedents that might haunt future governments.

Consultant Gus Charteris, retained by HDC to help establish the hort sector’s case for support, described the ‘ask’ – about $750 million, with Wairoa’s needs yet to be added – to be spread across three buckets – immediate clean-up relief, re-instatement of crops where possible for next year, and longer-term re-establishment of production. This is not the entire cost of recovery; nor does it involve any payment for lost incomes, a non-starter with Government.

Key to the advocacy is getting Government to recognise that all support funding should not be allocated to immediate relief and then taking immediate credit for ‘fixing’ the problem … funds must be available for longer term recovery of the sector over the next several years. 

Growers argue that the social and economic ‘cost’ of losing jobs and skills in the hort sector can be addressed by Government now and more cheaply by funding support to get production back up as quickly as possible, as opposed to bearing the higher future social costs of a meltdown of the sector (a la the meatworks).

While the total immediate horticulture loss to the region this year is estimated in the neighbourhood of $1.5 billion, Boston Consulting has projected an economic loss to the region of $3.5 billion by 2030 if the sector is left to recover entirely on its own. Whereas an injection of immediate support in the $750 million range would lift output by $2.4-$3.6 billion in that timeframe.

Lest anyone doubt, a key point made over and over through the meeting was that the impacts will be long-lasting, some slow to ripple through our landscape, economy and psyche. And ‘recovery’ must be seen in that light.

For me, as a former Regional Councillor, the other highlight of the meeting was seeing HBRC Councillors Xan Harding and Jerf van Beek put on the spot with regard to the vexing issue of whether burning of unprecedented amounts of mixed waste accumulated on farmer/grower properties should be allowed. 

Obviously this waste includes plastics, tanalised (chemically treated) posts, wire and other nasties that under normal circumstances could not be burned under HBRC rules. And rumours have circulated that HBRC Councillors and staff were at odds on this sensitive matter.

When asked, first-up Councillor Harding did his best to suggest the issue was still brewing, but that burning of hazardous waste might need to be in the toolkit.

Next up, though, Councillor van Beek cut to the chase: “No question, we’ll be burning!”

This is truly one of those ‘no win’ situations for a councillor. But it’s why we elect them.

Where do you stand … burn or not burn?

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6 Comments

  1. Burn the waste….lets get this done…stop fluffing about.
    Oh hangon someone might complain but then that person won’t have waste in their backyard!!!!

  2. Given the circumstances, I’d say burn, but not to be taken as a precedent. I’d also allow burning where driftwood (slash or otherwise) is clogging beaches, providing there’s an off-shore wind, naturally.

  3. There can be little doubt that the severity of cyclone Gabrielle was exacerbated by man made climate change ,due to mankind’s atmospheric pollution; and yet here we have proponents of more pollution as a quick and easy fix. This is madness.

    1. David Barnard. Man made Climate Change?? When did this start? A couple of hundred years ago perhaps? Look back at the history of Hawkes Bay and you will see that flooding in the Esk Valley and around Napier has happened since time began and they haven’t worried about the silt or slash problem in the past. If you farm or crop in a flood prone areas you’ll eventually cop a good one. The climate change argument doesn’t wash sorry. This country has always suffered from heavy rainfall and storms (way back before they invented climate change) and if we “Colonialists”) are stupid enough to live and farm and reroute rivers in flood prone areas then we’re asking for a good drenching . Sorry to the folks who have suffered so badly but just take a look at the history of the region.

  4. There is huge doubt that Gabrielle was caused by man made climate change. It is nature. How do you think the Canterbury Plains have been created over Millenia. By flooding of course. Why don’t we mulch all the waste and then test it and reapply it to the land as organic matter which it needs. That’s proper recycling.

  5. Burn it. Its they only option. Separating the different types of trash is impossible.
    Mulching and chipping up the wood comes with it’s own air pollution issues.

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