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No flood relief package a disappointment

24 November 2005

No flood relief package a disappointment

Cabinet’s decision today not to fund a full agricultural recovery package after Gisborne’s October flooding has disappointed its proponents. The Government has agreed to pay up to $25,000 as its share of a feasibility study on the establishment of flood protection measures in Tolaga Bay.

Recovery Team manager John Clarke says the many professionals involved in the recovery package proposal are saddened that their attempt on behalf of flood-affected growers and landowners was unsuccessful.

“There will be many disappointed growers and landowners who were hopeful the Government would provide further assistance.” Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton said today the scale of the flooding was not considered “significant enough to meet current criteria”. Further Taskforce Green help, rural assistance and New Start programmes, which assist people off their land to make a new start somewhere else, would be extended if required.

Mr Clarke said the New Start programme was probably the last thing Gisborne landowners wanted at the moment.

“My greatest concern is the current criteria which are wide enough to drive a horse and cart through. Cabinet is now only including events of national significance that are beyond the capacity of local communities to respond.

“We have endeavoured to show the flooding was of major significance, as was the Matata flooding which the Government poured millions of dollars into.

“Our only consolation is that the Minister has given an assurance that he wants to hear if there are any growers and landowners in severe financial difficulties at the end of the season. But that is of no immediate value to those affected.” In a press release, Mr Anderton said farming was vulnerable to a variety of weather events.

“Government aid has been provided on the basis that no regional economy is left devastated by serious weather events but the scale of the recent East Coast event is not considered significant enough to meet current criteria,” Mr Anderton said. Mr Clarke said the Recovery team had worked hard on behalf of those affected.

“If the proposal has done nothing else, it has prompted a major discussion between central and local government, the primary sector and land-based industries about risk management and government’s role in funding recovery for such events. “Unfortunately this discussion is at the expense of Gisborne and East Coast growers, landowners and the regional economy.”

The Taskforce Green project is to be reviewed in the next few weeks.

ENDS

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