NZ Landcare Trust has been praised by the rural community for its dynamic response to the Cyclone Gabrielle clean up in Te Tairāwhiti.  

Within days of the devastating cyclone that wreaked havoc on the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay regions, the independent non-government organisation had kickstarted a focused campaign to support affected landowners, catchment groups, and environmental landcare groups.

With $10,000 of starter funding from NZ Landcare Trust, donors quickly came on board including Westpac New Zealand, Fonterra, Ministry for the Environment, and numerous local businesses and individuals. 

More than $100,000 was raised in a month allowing NZ Landcare Trust to hire the necessary equipment (including bobcats, dozers and diggers), and contract experienced machinery operators to clear farm tracks, reinstall fencing, remove tonnes of silt, and start the process of reseeding land.

NZ Landcare Trust chief executive Nick Edgar says the Trust made the decision early to run a dedicated campaign focused on its landowners and catchment groups who were struggling to keep access roads open and repair infrastructure on their lands.

“There was a lot of fundraising going on at a national level but none of it was immediately accessible by our landowners. We are fortunate to have team members on the ground who were able to visit landowners in person to assess and prioritise what needed to happen and where – namely dozers and diggers to clear tracks and get farmers back on their lands. Thanks to our generous sponsors, our East Coast Catchment Coordinator was able to hire equipment quickly and recruit volunteers to start clearing roads, freeing up farmers to focus on the needs of their families and their stock,” he says.

NZ Landcare Trust received praise from not only grateful landowners but also volunteers and donors – which ranged from large organisations and businesses to local individuals – who were thankful for the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the recovery process.

“In the first few weeks after the cyclone, we had teams of volunteers working with landowners, supported by the Waimata Catchment Group and Tairāwhiti Environment Centre. It wasn’t until a month after the cyclone that we started to see organisations arrive with support. By this time, our volunteer teams had already dug and cleaned out numerous affected houses, de-silted woolsheds, yards, patched fences, dug out more fences, unblocked culverts, built flood gates and re-established drains,” says Nick.

NZ Landcare Trust has released a report highlighting the positive impact the campaign has had on the rural community and showcasing the value of strong catchment groups, catchment group managers and off-farm catchment coordinators in supporting effective and efficient natural disaster recovery.

“We are seeing extreme weather events occur more frequently and it is essential that we build catchment group resilience and recovery plans that can be used to support other catchment groups and industry bodies throughout the country. The actions of NZ Landcare Trust, Waimata Catchment Group, and Tairāwhiti Environment Centre highlighted how trusted relationships, a cohesive response and on-the-ground support can empower catchment groups in times of crises,” says Nick.

Read the report here