Immigration New Zealand is to work with Canterbury-based
irrigation companies to get more specialist workers into the
country to fix storm- damaged irrigators.
Last week, Irrigation New Zealand said the wind storms which
ravaged the region had caused ''unprecedented'' damage to
more than 800 irrigators.
Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said machinery
from South to North Canterbury had been damaged by high winds
but the bulk of the damage was to machinery around Ashburton,
Selwyn and Waimakariri.
''It's very, very serious,'' Mr Curtis said.
A lot could be repaired but many would need to be written
off, he said.
Irrigation companies had immediately contacted overseas
suppliers who were fast-tracking orders, nevertheless, there
was still expected to be a six to eight-week time lag before
parts arrived in the country.
It would be a similar time frame before repairs could be
completed, he said.
This could be further delayed if the specialist staff
required to fix the systems were not available.
Mr Curtis said there was a ''capacity issue'' which could not
be resolved ''short of pulling in a whole lot of people from
Rainer Irrigation owner Gavin Briggs said he would not be
making a decision on bringing in overseas workers until he
had a better idea of the ''big picture''.
He understood other companies hoped to arrange temporary work
permits to allow workers from Australia and the United States
to come into the country to help fix the systems.
The situation was a ''logistical nightmare''.
His company was aware of 260 centre pivot spans lying on the
ground and another 30 pivots across the region that had lost
Rotorainers were also damaged, he said.
Rainer Irrigation had already placed orders for parts and
expected a container load to arrive from Australia within a
fortnight with more arriving from the US within 60 days.
The company would employ its full complement of 85 staff to
take on the repairs.
''At this point in time'' he planned to only use his present
workforce because he needed skilled staff on the ground
immediately and there was not enough equipment in the country
yet for people to work with.
It would still take sometime to bring workers into the
country, so if he did decide to employ overseas workers he
would do that to erect what new pivots were needed, rather
than for repair work.
''I'm not bringing them in while its still bedlam. I'll wait
till things settle down before bringing them in.''
Some of the irrigators could be made operable, albeit without
the corner arms, quite quickly.
While most could be repaired to ''as new'' he expected about
20% of irrigators would be written off.
The company had at least three months' work ahead of it.
''If we get it all done by Christmas we'd be as happy as
hell,'' Mr Briggs said.
''The flow-on effect [of the damage] ... that's going to get
He believed it may even force some dairy farmers to go to
once-a-day milking very early in the season.
And many farmers had their ''eggs in one basket'' and did not
have back-up systems for effluent and were relying on centre
pivots to do the job.
''It's a disaster,'' Mr Briggs said. This type of damage was
reasonably common in tornado country in the midwest of the
''This is just a typical blow for the US.''
However, parts there were much cheaper and tax write-offs
easier to get, so most machinery was simply written-off and
''Old machinery is just pushed to one side and set up new.''
Mr Briggs understood Irrigation NZ would be asking for
Government assistance to help with the disaster.