Rural community update - flooding

We’ve pulled together information for farmers to help respond to the region’s flooding. Please check out the support page for contact details for various support groups. 

Updated at 12.10 pm, 8 June, with new information on EQC claims. 

It’s important that you look after yourself and your families at all times. Please take extra care when on farm and inspecting infrastructure. Be especially careful around ponds, dams, culverts and stopbanks and around water and infrastructure that may have been compromised.

Your safety is the priority, followed by livestock. 

Please ensure you maintain contact with staff and family on farm. Raise an alert if you have any concerns in relation to safety of family and staff.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has announced an Adverse Event

More information on adverse events is available on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website.

Please see information below on:

Welfare

You can find information on what help is available on the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management webpage, including information about returning to flooded homes, rural communities and animal welfare, and financial support and insurance.

River works

Environment Canterbury staff and contractors are in the field assessing damage and responding to priority issues. We are currently assessing significant flood repairs on the Selwyn/Waikirikiri, Ashburton/Hakatere, Hinds/Hekeao, Orari and Waihi Rivers. Ashburton is particularly hard hit so we will have a full time dedicated Senior River Engineer onsite for at least the next week.

Contractors will be working through the weekend on the most urgent sites, and river engineers have been brought in from other regional councils to help.

Environment Canterbury will lead removal of debris from rivers but this will take some time.

Extensive imagery has been captured to assist with engineering assessment and design work. This will be supported by lidar work, which will be completed over the next 2–4 weeks.

For a detailed breakdown of the work we’re doing across Canterbury, see the flood protection works page on our website.

Diverting rivers

Key advice for farmers wanting to redivert rivers off their farmland

  1. The river has changed course and is running through my farm. Can I undertake my own work to divert the river back into its bed without a resource consent?

    Yes, if the following situation applies:

    • the action is to protect life or property (including stock) and;
    • it is reasonable in the circumstances and;
    • the actions don’t result in lasting environmental harm and/or the negative impacts of the work can be adequately mitigated and;
    • your works do not adversely impact on a neighbour or someone downstream.
  2. Do I need to contact Environment Canterbury before undertaking work to divert a river?

    Yes. We want to document your situation and record where works have been undertaken. This can be done over the phone. We will request that you keep a record of the work you undertake. Please call Customer Services at 0800 324 636 to speak to one of our staff.

  3. Can I get reimbursement from Environment Canterbury or a rating district for work I undertake on my farm?

    At this time we cannot commit to reimbursing landowners for work. We are completing assessments on the work to repair and restore flood protection assets and to return flows into rivers. We have access to funding via rating districts and other sources for this work. 

Roading infrastructure

Local Territorial authorities are working hard to get local roading and infrastructure operational.

State Highway information is updated on the Waka Kotahi NZTA website. (Note that NZTA does not have complete information on local roads.)

Check your local Council website for updates on the status of local infrastructure.

Flood protection infrastructure

Environment Canterbury River Engineering staff are busy assessing the entire flood protection network, both on the ground and from the air.

The Environment Canterbury team has been strengthened with support from staff from other Regional Councils.

The initial focus of work will be on ensuring the safety of people and livestock from risks posed by water.

Teams undertaking emergency repairs are working as quickly as possible, but this will take time and patience is urged. In the meantime, all flood protection infrastructure should be considered vulnerable and extreme care required.

Caution when excavating

Bridge outages have compromised the fibre optic network in Canterbury. Any further damage would be extremely serious. If farmers or their contractors are undertaking earthworks in the vicinity of fibre optic networks, then it is critical that utility providers are contacted.

If your property is adjacent to a waterway and you need to do some remedial work following the floods, please call the Customer Services team on 0800 324 636 prior to starting. Let the team know what the issue is and what you want to do and they can help figure out the best way forward.

Dairy moving day/movements to winter grazing

There will be numerous issues with farms not able to complete transfers of families, stock and businesses as planned. Farm owners, sharemilkers, dairy staff and graziers are urged to review situations and work together as best they can to develop plans for the coming days and weeks. Each case will be unique and the parties on the ground will be best placed to make decisions. 

  • Only move stock from one property to another if you have confirmed that both:
    • the entire transport route is open; and
    • the destination property and staff are able to receive the stock being transferred.
  • Feed stocks are in very short supply given the recent dry conditions. In the short term, farmers should not rely on external feed coming into the district.

Water

Rural water supplies may have been compromised as a result of flooding. If there are any concerns about domestic water supplies, water should be boiled before drinking.

Correspondence

During this time, you may continue to receive correspondence from Environment Canterbury, as well as other councils and industry bodies. We know that this will not be a priority right now, and want to assure you that our first priority is also the safety and health of you and your family, and we will not be expecting any issues to be addressed immediately. If you have any questions or doubts, call your local land management advisor or call our Customer Services team on 0800 324 636.

Environmental compliance

  • The significant weather event will have compromised the systems and infrastructure that farmers rely on to ensure environmental requirements are met.
  • Environment Canterbury wants farmers to note:
    • Only when it is safe to do so, and people and stock have been cared for, should landowners try and mitigate adverse environmental impacts arising from the weather. 
    • Any scheduled farm audits, consenting or compliance activity impacted by the weather event can be deferred for the time being. Environment Canterbury will work with consent holders and auditors to reschedule to an appropriate time, once the emergency and recovery have passed.
    • There are three tests farmers need to consider when undertaking actions that would otherwise require a consent and/or breach the Resource Management Act. These tests are:
      1. Actions are required to protect life and property;
      2. Actions are reasonable in the circumstances; and
      3. Actions are taken to fix/remedy the situation as soon as possible.
  • For farmers winter milking, milking cows needs to continue for animal welfare reasons. This may result in milk that may need to be dumped (see notes below). Farms may have effluent infrastructure that is damaged or compromised (e.g. effluent ponds with torn/damaged liners). Where there is no other option, farmers can use compromised infrastructure – but need to pay attention to the considerations above (e.g. ensuring that actions are taken to address as soon as possible – through repair, or modified operations to minimise the impact).

Removing flood debris

As floodwaters recede, many residents, farmers and lifestyle block owners are dealing with debris left on their property as well as with their own possessions damaged by the flood.

To aid with disposal, sort your waste into separate piles for removal – one for domestic / household waste and others for material such as fenceposts, trees and other green waste, and plastic baleage wrap.

Please check with your local council if they have special arrangements for collection and disposal of debris from the flood.

Rules for burning greenwaste

You can burn trees and other greenwaste, provided you meet these requirements:

Exemptions

Properties under 2 ha in size outside of clean air zones would not normally be able to have outdoor burns.

However, Environment Canterbury will allow flood-related greenwaste to be burned as an exemption to the rules, provided that:

Any properties under 2 ha in size within a clean air zone should contact Environment Canterbury, so staff can assist in planning how flood debris might be burned as an exception.

Do not burn:

  • Treated fenceposts and baleage wrap should not be burned.
  • Fencing materials that cannot be reused or recycled can be buried on-farm or taken to your local council’s transfer station.
  • Silage wrap should be collected for recycling (e.g. Plasback) or taken to your local council’s transfer station disposal.

Milk disposal

  • Advice for handling of milk where transport has been disrupted, the preferred disposal methods (in order of preference):
    1. For processors to have milk processed by alternative facilities / factories (may not be practical in short term)
    2. Hold milk until it can be sprayed onto dry paddocks on-farm
    3. If milk cannot be sprayed onto dry paddocks, it should be (carefully) dispersed into large volume of flowing water.
  • Actions for processors:
    • Expect proceeding with 2) or 3) above
    • When practicable – to inform ECan the details of farms that are disposing of milk on-farm (in case complaints are received from the public).
    • Following the event – to prepare a report for ECan detailing what emergency disposal actions were undertaken - note – individual farmers do not need to do this.

Insurance

  • Key messages from insurance providers are as follows:
    • Please do not do anything that puts your safety at risk
    • You can carry out emergency repairs (for example: making buildings safe and weatherproof)
    • Take photos of any damage you're repairing as this will likely make up part of your insurance claim
    • Contact your insurer before carrying out non-essential repairs
    • If you need to throw items out, (such as food which has perished), take photos of these first
    • Where you can, take photos of any damage to assist with your insurance claim.
  • Anyone who is changing their moving day plans should contact their insurer.
  • There are specialist transit covers to be put in place, prior to departure for when moving stock or contents. Farmers should contact their insurer to ensure they have these in place before the move.
  • 1 June is a very common renewal date for rural NZ, as such it is important that farmers retain ‘continuity of cover’. If in doubt, contact the insurer promptly.
  • Please be aware of any biosecurity requirements in place, such as moving stock between properties and if you’re moving cattle or deer, please ensure you comply with all NAIT obligations.

EQC claims

Key messages from EQC providing guidance to people who have experienced damage to their farms or rural properties following a natural disaster. For more information email info@eqc.govt.nz or call 0800 DAMAGE (326 243).

Long access ways

EQC covers:

  • The main access way to each residential building, but only the part that is within 60 metres of that building (as the crow flies) and within the land holding on which the building is lawfully situated.
  • Cover is only for the land forming the access way.

EQC doesn’t cover:

  • Any parts of the access way that are on council land or over neighbouring properties, unless an easement is in place. This is because these parts are not within the same land holding as the residential building.
  • The sealed surface of the access way, which may be covered under private insurance.
Rural structures

EQC covers:

  • Residential buildings and structures only, meaning the dwelling, associated services (water supply, drainage, sewerage, gas, electrical and telephone services and structures appurtenant to these services), and building and structures that are used for the purposes of the household of the dwelling occupiers.
  • Some buildings or structures may have both a household use and a commercial or other use. These will be covered by EQC, where they are used for the purposes of the household of the dwelling occupiers: in other words, where the household use is material.
  • Seasonal accommodation for workers may attract EQC cover but it will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of each case. If the accommodation is self-contained and the person chooses to live there on a more than temporary or transient basis and the prime purpose of the premises is to serve as somebody’s home, then it may be covered. For example, accommodation on an orchard occupied by different fruit pickers for a few weeks at a time would not be covered by EQC where-as a farm-house occupied by a shepherd for a full season may be covered by EQC.

EQC doesn’t cover:

  • Other buildings and structures, including those used for commercial operations (e.g. a milking shed), do not have cover through EQC, but may be insured through private insurance.
  • Seasonal accommodation for workers.
Water supply, wells and bores

EQC covers:

  • Water supply services serving the dwelling and owned by the dwelling owner (or the owner of the land the dwelling is situated on), even if the water supply service has a commercial or other use as well.
  • Cover is only for the infrastructure that is in place, and doesn’t include seeking out new or alternative supplies from the property.
  • Infrastructure is only covered where it serves the dwelling, is within 60 metres of the dwelling (as the crow flies) and is owned by the dwelling owner (or the owner of the land on which the dwelling is situated).

EQC doesn’t cover:

  • EQC doesn’t provide cover for temporary water while the supply is out of order.
  • In general, irrigation supply and water supply for livestock and other animals will not be covered because it is not a water supply service serving the dwelling.
  • EQC does not cover problems with the presence or quality of the water itself: just the infrastructure.
Water tanks and sewerage

EQC covers:

  • EQC provides cover for water tanks that are part of the water supply service serving the dwelling, owned by the dwelling owner (or the owner of the land on which the dwelling is situated) and within 60 metres of the dwelling (as the crow flies).
  • Septic tanks and other sewerage services are covered by EQC, where they serve the dwelling, are within 60 metres (as the crow flies) and are owned by the dwelling owner (or the owner of the land on which the dwelling is situated).
Land

EQC covers:

  • Land cover is for the main access way, and for land under and up to 8 metres around residential buildings.
  • Cover is also provided for retaining walls that are supporting or protecting a residential building or the insured area of land, and are within 60 metres of the building.
  • Land cover is limited to the land within the same land holding as the residential building, which can include land that the dwelling owner has an easement interest in (e.g. a right of way).
  • Bridges and culverts are covered only where they are within insured land areas. The whole bridge must be within the land holding (or covered by an easement) to be covered by EQC.
Machinery, vehicles and livestock

EQC doesn’t cover:

  • Motor vehicles or trailers, whether they are for residential or other use.
  • Animals (including livestock and pets).
  • Other items that may be found on a farm, including: any aircraft or anything in or on an aircraft; any bush, forest, tree, plant or lawn; growing crops, (including fruit trees and vines) or cut crops in the open fields; dams, breakwaters, moles, groynes, fences, poles or walls (except retaining walls); drains, channels, tunnels or cuttings; any vessel; any explosives. For a complete list, see Schedule 2 of the Earthquake Commission Act.
Other issues to be aware of

Some farms may have multiple homes covered under a single policy (which may be a commercial policy). Where each building met the definition of “residential building” at the relevant time and was insured against fire at the time of the earthquake, it will be covered by EQC.

EQC covers buildings only where they are self-contained premises that are, at the relevant time, somebody’s home or (if vacant) intended by the owner to be somebody’s home. Sometimes there are multiple houses on a farm and some are vacant. These will not be covered unless they meet the “residential building” definition.

Rural finance

Feed available/wanted

For feed support services call 0800 FARMING or 0800 327 646 and follow the call prompts. Alternatively, refer to MPI information on feed support services for farmers during floods.

Winter grazing

We are urging farmers impacted by the May/June severe weather event to reach out for help, if they need it, to update their winter grazing plans.

  • Help is available to update winter grazing plans from:
  • Should compliance issues arise, Environment Canterbury officers will consider the individual circumstances of the farmer, including the extent of planning and actions that have been undertaken. This could also include situations where stock have been temporarily moved to other locations to escape from flood damage.
  • Farmers who have lost crops or grazing area as a direct result of the weather can consider contacting the MPI Feed Coordination Service, which assists with finding feed or grazing for sale on 0800 00 83 33
  • Find out more about how to manage winter grazing, or get in touch with Customer Services on 0800 324 636 and ask to talk to one of our land management advisors.