Irrigation delay as bad as drought

Immigration NZ’s fast-tracking visas for overseas specialists to repair the 800 irrigators damaged by wind in Canterbury is boosting efforts to get irrigation underway.

But Irrigation NZ says delayed irrigation is a real concern and the economic consequences could rival last year’s drought.

“It’s great to see the help that’s gone into getting irrigators back on track” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. “The fast-tracked Visas are good news for those desperately awaiting repairs. However we’re very aware that even with overseas assistance, the picture is grim for farmers whose irrigators require complicated rebuilds. Some won’t see irrigation before Christmas which could reduce milk production, threaten crop viability and put pressure on stock food supplies.”

It also causes problems with getting rid of effluent which is usually sprayed on pastures with irrigators.

Ashburton’s Rainer Irrigation welcomed four centre pivot technicians from South Africa this week.

Assistant Manager Lucas Cawte says the sheer workload generated by the wind’s severity far exceeded the company’s resources for a quick turnaround and overseas staff will significantly reduce downtime for farmers.

“We’ve brought these guys in from South Africa to focus on pivots as these sustained the most damage and that’s where the pressure point will be. It was pretty short notice for Visas but IrrigationNZ spoke with Immigration and forwarded contacts and it was a straightforward process. The turnaround was about 24 hours and our guys are now here. That’s unheard of.”  

Rainer Irrigation has already fixed ¼ of the irrigators on its books but Mr Cawte says those repair jobs don’t represent the scale of damage they have seen. 

“We’ve focused on the ones with minimal damage using stock we had. But the next phase will be heavy repairs and we’re still waiting on parts. One container has arrived from Australia where we cleared out their stock and another container is due shortly from the US. Our suppliers have really come to the party as we originally thought it would take six to eight weeks to get parts.”

Mr Cawte says farmers had been very understanding as they knew the scale of repairs the industry was facing.

“Many are helping where they can by providing us with telelifters and other machinery and throwing their own manpower at the job. But it is early days still.”

Immigration New Zealand’s Assistant Area Manager Christchurch, Steve Jones, says the department was happy to work with IrrigationNZ to expedite the application process for offshore irrigation crew.  

An Immigration Manager from the Christchurch branch was provided as a dedicated point of contact. The manager was able to advise on the type of applications for offshore staff and where they should be lodged. Having one point of contact for IrrigationNZ and the various irrigation companies had proved very effective, says Mr Jones.

“We consider requests for urgent processing on a case by case basis and, where there are compelling reasons, we will prioritise the processing of applications lodged. This was clearly a situation where time was of the essence and we agreed to prioritise applications accordingly,” says Mr Jones.

Immigration NZ’s acknowledgement of the urgency is appreciated but even with more specialists from overseas the scale of the work needed means it will be at least a couple of months before all irrigators are repaired.

Some farmers will decided the production lost justifies the expense of replacement equipment rather than repairs.

6 Responses to Irrigation delay as bad as drought

  1. Viv K says:

    This problem is an inevitable consequence of being dependent upon a complex system that is vulnerable to failure. What actions are being taken to ensure that effluent is not polluting the local environment?


  2. robertguyton says:

    Slurry tankers.



  3. jabba says:

    not having effluent is like someone saying ‘tell me how you are going to bake that cake, but you can’t have any butter, eggs, flour or sugar’.


  4. homepaddock says:

    Farmers are working with the regional council to ensure alternative methods of dispersal are compliant. It can be done, just not as easily as with irrigators.


  5. Viv K says:

    ‘not having effluent’, who ever suggested that one jabba? You seem to have difficulties understanding analogys. The cows on the intensively stocked dairy farms are going to continue to produce waste whether appropriate mechanisms for dealing with that waste are functioning or not. Intensive dairying is pushing the carrying capacity of the land to its limits. When something goes wrong, such as this storm damage, the neighbouring environment is put at risk. If storm damage stopped my mercury trap working, I would have to stop working until it was fixed because I would be in breach of trade waste bylaws. You can’t get the cows to cross their legs and hold on, so any intensive farming operation should have a environmentally sound Plan B. I was asking Ele (who I understand knows about intensive dairying) what that plan was.


  6. robertguyton says:

    jabba has difficulties understanding many things, Viv. Best to ignore his beer-fueled utterances. Your patient and logical explanation will be lost on him. Your point is a good one. Building-in fail-safe systems is not something that’s done to any real extent. Look at the oil industry for example (sorry to ruin your day) but the obvious lack of disaster-response capability is screamingly obvious to someone like yourself, but seemingly invisible to the likes of jabba and Ele. Yes, it’s frightening, but at least we can take comfort in knowing that Key and that dangerous-idiot Bridges are singing their swan song right now and will be goneski next year.


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