Cyclone Gabrielle: Group of southern farmers help out in Hawke’s Bay
Otago Daily Times Story By Ben Tomsett (4th April 2023)
Photos: Supplied via ODT. Third photo Nelson Hancox and Wilson Devery from Moa Flat, West Otago.
Armed with a few hundred kilograms worth of equipment, a group of Southland farmers took a week off to head to Hawke’s Bay to assist the flood-hit locals.
Co-ordinated by West Otago farmer Nelson Hancox and South Auckland business owner Richard Mabin, the group of 12 came from Southland and further afield to assist farmers in the region in restoring fences, clearing silt and getting areas of farms “stock-proof”.
The group brought a week’s worth of home-cooked food so as not to contribute to pressure on resources, while Mabin co-ordinated three utes, three quad-bikes and two diggers, mostly donated by friends, to be driven to Hawke’s Bay.
“It’s pretty cool to see how generous people are to help people out when they’re worse off than themselves.”
Another member of the group also paid for roughly 600 waratahs to be transported into the region.
Fletcher Construction donated about 5km of netting, wire and staples. The group worked throughout the week to install them on farms while the digger drivers pulled rotating shifts, starting work clearing silt at 4 am and working until about 7 pm.
Watching the destruction unfold on the news from his own farm in Southland, group member Wayne Hopcroft felt it was pretty important to get up there and do something about it.
“We didn’t get all the fences up and running but we got them up and operational enough so they could get stock to and from the yards.
“[We also] made quite a few of their paddocks stock proof, which would have been a bit of a daunting task if you were just an individual farmer looking at all the devastation and going, ‘well, where do I start?’.
“You get a dozen or so guys and you can blast through a lot of the work in a short period of time.”
It was hard work waking up at daylight and working until dark. The group usually polished the days off with a couple of beers before going to bed at about 8 pm.
He emphasised the work done by the group was nothing extraordinary in the context, as there were a large number of people from within the region and beyond doing their fair share to get the farms back on track.
“Some of the people down here, when they heard what was going on they gave money to put towards the likes of the waratahs and other things.
“We stopped at Cambridge on the way home about 8 o’clock at night and stopped at a pub, and an old guy there - he came over to the table and asked what we’d been doing, then he left us a $100 note for a few beers.”
The group were supported by several rural organisations including Farmlands and Farm Source.