Best friend safe after Canterbury flooding but pain lingers

Max is helped onto a New Zealand Defence Force vehicle by Private Joshua Ley as the Stewart...
Max is helped onto a New Zealand Defence Force vehicle by Private Joshua Ley as the Stewart family is evacuated. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force
Dave Stewart and his family may have emerged from the floodwaters safe and well.

But the heartache of a flooding catastrophe which ravaged the Mid-Canterbury district has not subsided for the Greenstreet dairy farmer who was evacuated alongside wife Maree and son TJ on Sunday, May 30.

The image of 10-year-old dog Max being guided onto a truck by a member of the New Zealand Defence Force during the evacuation circulated across national and international channels as news broke of the Canterbury region being lashed by a one-in-100-year rain event.

As Stewart, 67, surveyed the damage to the 200ha family farm yesterday, which he said was going to absorb significant time and costs, there was only one feeling that came to mind.

"Soul destroying," he said.

The Ashburton River is currently running through the farm after a river stopbank was breached and one of the two family homes on the farm suffered flooding damage.

None of the family's stock succumbed to the flood, however, some areas of land will be out of action for several months.

Enclosed by both the north and south branches of the Hakatere river, Greenstreet has been one of the worst affected areas of the flood.

The Stewart family had been anticipating nasty weather on the Sunday and began the process of coordinating their cows.

It was not long before farm vehicles were abandoned at the cow shed and Dave, Maree and son TJ were being hauled into an army truck along Hills Rd.

"I was struggling to get up there," Stewart said.

"And the guy said 'here give me the dog' and he just totally relaxed in the army guy's arms."

Greenstreet dairy farmer Dave Stewart and Max are safely back on the farm at Greenstreet, near...
Greenstreet dairy farmer Dave Stewart and Max are safely back on the farm at Greenstreet, near Ashburton. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns
Driving away in the Defence Force vehicle and facing an uncertain outlook in terms of the family farm, Stewart remembers the experience as heartbreaking.

"Me and [son] TJ were inconsolable," he said.

"We didn't know what tomorrow was going to bring," TJ said.

Their dog was taken to a vet in Ashburton where he stayed for two days as the Stewarts took care of proceedings at the farm.

"He's back home now, he's a bit upset that he's in a kennel and not inside by the fire," Mrs Stewart said.

"It's just the cats aren't used to him."

  • Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

- By Adam Burns
Local Democracy reporter






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