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Published: 2008-08-05 00:00:00

From Waikato Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group.
Power companies need to give higher priority to restoring power to farms during storms so that animals don’t suffer, Hauraki District Council mayor John Tregidga said at yesterday’s meeting of the Waikato Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Group in Hamilton.

Mr Tregidga told the meeting, which was discussing recent bad weather in the Waikato, that some farmers had not been able to milk their cows for up to three days because various power companies had not been able to restore electricity quickly. This led to significant stress on cows. "It really is an issue."

Power companies had generally done a good job restoring power but needed to give higher priority to the rural community’s needs, Mr Tregidga said. While farmers could install back-up generators, smaller farms could find this expensive, he added.

His views received support from Otorohanga mayor Dale Williams. "They [power companies] need to be on notice that, at these times when they’re most needed, they need to respond."

But Thames Coromandel District Council deputy mayor Adrian Catran also felt farmers could do more to ensure they had back-up generators so that cows didn’t suffer when normal electricity supplies were disrupted. Farms were often big operations and "the cost of a generator should be built into their business".

Matamata-Piako District mayor Hugh Vercoe said he would be writing to insurance companies asking them to help reimburse volunteer firefighters who gave personal resources, such as plywood sheets and tarpaulins, to help stop damage to homes during storms.

He said he would ask insurers to donate to a mayoral fund to cover such reimbursement. Waikato CDEM chairman Peter Lee, from Waipa District, asked Mr Vercoe to report back on the response of insurers.

Meanwhile, during a presentation on recent flooding in the Waikato, Environment Waikato emergency manager Adam Munro showed slides of how flood waters had spilt on to plains beside rivers.

The amount of water in these "storage areas" – which help prevent flood damage in more built-up areas further downstream – illustrated very clearly why it was important to prevent development on these sections of the plains, Mr Munro said.