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New Zealand - More than 800 damage claims received so far by rural insurer

Insurance claims have started rolling in as farmers count the costs of ex-Cyclone Gita striking New Zealand.

Rural insurer FMG has confirmed 827 claims so far, mostly for wind damage to houses, dairy, hay and implement sheds  from lower Auckland to Southland, but has yet to release the total cost.

FMG Taranaki area manager Jason Rolfe said it would likely take several weeks to get a full picture of the damage as farmers assessed their properties and put claims in.

“From the claims we’re receiving it looks like coastal and South Taranaki, along with parts of Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast have been the worst hit. On-going power outages in Taranaki have made recovery more challenging in the region.”

He said landowners who had suffered damage should let their insurer know as early as possible.

The storm caused states of emergency to be declared in regions around the country as it lashed large parts of New Zealand last week.

Federated Farmers President Katie Milne said there was damage all around the West Coast on different farms, ranging from shed roofs being blown off, trees knocked over, power cuts and damage to fences.

“There will be some insurance claims up and down the [West] Coast for sure with all of the sheds and bits and pieces [damaged].”

As far as Milne was aware, no farmers had suffered stock losses, and any that did occur would be minimal. There were few farms with young stock at this time of the year, and farmers were given plenty of warning that the storm was coming, she said.

“People in Canterbury were tying their irrigators down, which was good practice to do when you know you’re in for a hiding.”

The storm caused disruption for Fonterra with the dairy co-operative unable to collect milk from 15 farms in Taranaki and 40 at the top of the South Island. No milk had been dumped because most of the affected farmers had been able to store it in their vats.

For Riwaka kiwifruit, apple and cherry growers, Thomas Bros’, the damage caused by the storm was the worst they had seen.

Kiwifruit manager Steve Thomas said neither he, his father or his uncle had ever seen a storm cause as much destruction to their family business.

Jordan Creek, which ran through the property could not handle the downpour and flooded, covering the area in thick layers of mud, silt and debris.

Zespri chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney​ said they were aware of some isolated cases of orchard flooding around Riwaka, with possible damage to low-hanging fruit, and a packhouse in the area has also been affected by flooding.

“Zespri is working with growers to provide support as needed. The Upper South Island supplies around 4 per cent of Zespri’s SunGold volume.”

Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Rayne​, who is an orchardist in Nelson, said the region’s horticulturalists were mostly unaffected by the weather.

“Things will be a bit soggy, but it’s drying out. Vegetables will be fine so long as the water drains off today. Otherwise, there will be plant deaths, and this leads to shortages.

“Apple picking is halted for a couple of days to let the trees dry out, but the apples won’t be affected.”

New Zealand Hops reported that apart from some localised flooding the crop, which was grown in the Nelson area, came through unscathed.

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