Listen On:      Listen on Apple     Listen on amazon music               

Cyclone Gabrielle: one year on | Ep 2

Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through many parts of the North Island last February, causing widespread devastation.

To mark the cyclone’s one-year anniversary, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson Sandra Faulkner joins Gisborne farmer Sam Hain to reflect on their experiences of the event and the 12 months since. 

Sandra recounts waking up the following morning to the devastation, and immediately checking on friends, neighbours and relatives to see who needed help. She then talks about how the community banded together and the early challenges she faced in organising a response: no phone reception, no internet, dealing with media, and so on. 

Sandra explains the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle was always going to be long and painful. She also discusses how farmers and growers are still dealing with the knock-on effects to production, yields and profitability. Thankfully, at least, the current summer is going better, she says. 

The mic then switches to Pehiri sheep and beef farmer Sam Hain, who outlines just how serious the damage was to his and wife Gemma’s Waikura Station. Sam was quoted by media last February as saying their farm “got smoked”, and he spends some time painting a picture of what that looked like on the ground. Their two-story woolshed was almost completely submerged, they had over 5000 slips, and every fenceline was left with a hole in it. 

Sam’s tractor, purchased after Cyclone Gabrielle, has been running non-stop over the past year and will be doing so for another six months before all his tracks are restored to pre-cyclone condition. 

Ever the optimist, Sam recounts some silver linings to the destruction. He says the months of clearing debris and sharing amenities with neighbouring farmers has brought a sense of adventure and kinship with his community. The damage has also presented an opportunity to build fences and buildings in smarter places too, he says.

Sam says morale remains high among his networks. Ironically, what’s actually keeping many farmers up at night is big bank loans and high interest rates, he says. 

Sandra agrees, adding it’s more of an accumulation of weather events that have left East Coast and Hawke’s Bay farmers and growers exhausted mentally, rather than one cyclone. She stresses the importance of support networks as a means to be resilient.

Sandra explains Federated Farmers’ role in the recovery, including the Commence the Re-Fence initiative. She says the focus for those in leadership roles now needs to become more “transformational”. Instead of a piecemeal approach to recovery, leaders need to look at the big-picture and find ways to build infrastructure in a way that makes our regions resilient for decades to come. 

Sam closes by encouraging any struggling farmers to talk. “Get on the phone and talk – farmers love to talk.  You may end up talking to someone who really needs it.” 

Useful links: