Farmer relays concerns to O’Connor – ‘Better off with M.bovis’

Rangitata MP Jo Luxton, Laurence Rooney, Honer Rooney (7) and Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor at the Rooney Farm yesterday. PHOTO ADAM BURNS


“I wouldn’t want to go through this again.”

This was the enduring feeling for dairy farmer Laurence Rooney who believes he would have been better off if his farm caught M. bovis after “taking a hit” for the Ashburton town during the May floods.

Laurence and Philippa Rooney received a fleeting visit from the Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday to his flood-ravaged Ashburton Forks property and are facing a long farming and financial road after losing half of its herd during the May 30-31 Canterbury floods.

Rooney said it was good to illustrate the scale of the impact to the Minister.

“More people in his position need to see this,” he said.

“We’re not holding our breath for any favours though.”

Their farm, which sits ominously close to the North Branch of the Ashburton River, copped a battering and the family was expecting about $500,000 worth of damage and a “million dollars in lost income”.

O’Connor admitted that the initial $4 million Government relief would only go so far.

“It’s a matter of working through and prioritising and that those who need assistance gets a fair opportunity to get something,” he said.

“Obviously it’s not going to cover all the costs that farmers have incurred,“ he said.

“But it’s a start.”

Assessing flood damage in the regions has been somewhat of a theme for the Minister in the past few weeks.

O’Connor said the May floods were more extensive compared to flooding on the West Coast earlier this month.

“There are more farmers affected here,” he said.

“Some of the scouring on farms here and the impact on community infrastructure has been far greater.

“The farmers are pretty resilient here.”

The question of money in the ongoing flood recovery has been a major sticking point, particularly among the flood-hit rural sector.

“We would’ve been better off getting M.bovis and culling the herd starting from scratch,” Rooney said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries paid out more than $180 million for M.bovis compensation last year.
“We have to help with immediate recovery,” O’Connor said.

Rangitata MP Jo Luxton, who joined O’Connor at the Rooney’s property, said it was good for the Minister to see the extent of the impact now that the water had subsided.

– Adam Burns