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Gisborne-East Coast growers on own to seek help

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Gisborne-East Coast growers on their own to seek help

Gisborne and East Coast growers left in dire straits after two severe flood events in five weeks are on their own to seek targeted government assistance.

Flood recovery manager John Clarke says growers, but not businesses, will need to decide for themselves whether they want to “drop their trou for Treasury when the only certainty seems like a kick in the backside”.

VegFed representatives met Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton and his officials this afternoon (Wednesday) to get clarification on the criteria that might apply for targeted assistance.

“The Minister made it quite clear that there would be no relief packages as earlier requested and no interest-free loans as a means of targeting those under financial pressure. Instead individuals in dire straits will need to open their books on a case-by-case basis to MAF and Treasury.”

If there were no hope of a business surviving, growers would possibly qualify for a government Restart grant of up to $60,000 to get out of their business and off their land.

“If they could stay in business with some assistance, and we are not sure what the criteria are for assessing that, there might be some aid available, but this is not guaranteed.”

Mr Clarke said that the Minister’s decision was disappointing in one way but it was important the issue had been clarified quickly rather than raising expectations.

“I know the Minister has done his best but clearly the Government wanted to put a line in the sand and I have been in the political environment long enough to know you only get one chance to do that. But unfortunately the wider discussion about the Government’s involvement in disaster recovery and a rewriting of the criteria comes at Gisborne’s expense.”

Mr Clarke was concerned about the morale of growers and encouraged them to make contact with the team if they needed further assistance or just for a chat.

“The team still has available to it access to agencies that can provide advice and support to individuals and businesses on a confidential basis. We need to decide by mid-December whether we extend the Task Force Green beyond 6 January when the current scheme is due to finish.”

ENDS

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