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MAF and Defence to Otago farmers' aid

MAF and Defence to Otago farmers' aid

Air Force helicopters would distribute food to stock trapped in isolated areas near Central Otago this weekend, Acting Agriculture Minister Michael Cullen said today.

Dr Cullen said sudden bad weather had caused unseasonally severe
snowstorms, and stock on high ground in the Rock and Pillar Range in Central Otago had become trapped in drifts of more than a metre deep.

"The bad weather has meant that farmers are unable to reach their animals and can neither bring food to them nor bring the animals down to where food is."

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry analysts in the region estimated that 25,000 sheep and 1500 cattle were at risk of starvation. About 20 farms are involved.

Dr Cullen said the air force had four helicopters nearby carrying out a mountain exercise near Fiordland, and were able to help the Central Otago farmers. The heavy lifting capability of the Iroquois helicopters was needed.

"Local farmers have taken initiatives and have organised bulldozers and a large numbers of volunteers for snow raking. They are also using small helicopters to carry feed, but they do not have the lifting capacity to take enough feed, and they cannot reach the stock at high altitudes."

Acting Defence minister Phil Goff has issued an instruction to the Defence Force to help the Central Otago farmers, and the helicopters are expected to arrive there tomorrow. The Defence Force is to liaise with the local operational center near Patearoa to work out how best to supply stock with feed.


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