Flooding And Animal Sickness Hit Farmers After New Zealand Earthquakes

Farmer Paget Milsom last night worried that a rising river could top its banks and flood a faultline cutting through his property towards his house.

Mr Milsom has spent the past week digging out the bottom of the Hororata River so it would stop flowing on to his farm.

The river had diverted along the faultline, its flow making a sharp turn from southwest to due east.

Early last week, his farm, about 40km southwest of Christchurch, was submerged in water half a metre deep because the faultline had been lower than the river bottom.

The house was surrounded by a newly formed lake 400m wide, and some cows got trapped.

After Mr Milsom dug out 800m of the river, the flooding was reduced to about 5cm.

But heavy rain on Saturday renewed his fears that the flooding could start all over again.

“It’s a long way off from being comfortable – we just happen to be in its flow path,” Mr Milsom said.

“But we just have to keep going,” he added.

Nearby, cows on Brendon Woods’ farm have suffered major infections due to disruptions caused by the earthquake.

The farm, near the Burnham military base, has obvious signs of earthquake damage – a formerly straight line of trees has been split into two segments 5m apart.

The dairy shed is relatively fine, but there is enough damage to cause serious health problems in the cows.

“They like to be milked every day, particularly this time of year, so we’ve had some major infection issues,” Mr Woods said.

“It’s all caused by stress. Just like the humans are stressed, the animals are stressed.”

The infection would compromise milk quality for the rest of the year, and the farm would incur hefty penalties as a result, he said.

Among the diseased cows are those suffering from mastitis.

Other cows suffered when power was knocked out and they could not get nutrients supplied through mineral water.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman Kieran Stone said that farmers were under immense pressure.

“People are just tired. This time of the year is the biggest for dairy farmers anyway. And many were hit by South Canterbury Finance. It’s been bang, bang, bang,” Mr Stone said.

But despite the stress and trauma, the clinical head of the Christchurch anxiety disorders unit, Caroline Bell, warned that people should not be enticed by offers of therapy.

“People are going through a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,” Ms Bell said.

“I’ve had concerns related to people saying, this is like 9/11. This is like post-traumatic stress disorder. Linking it in that sensationalist kind of way is harmful.”

The best thing for people to do was to be in their community and share their experiences. “Medicalising” the trauma could make it worse, she said.

But Karen Ross, who specialises in transformational coaching and therapy, said many people were traumatised and therapy could help change their patterns of thinking.

An approach called neurolinguistic programming was being brought to Christchurch by a group of therapists under the name NZ Trauma Recovery Team, Ms Ross said.

If people experienced thoughts that caused fear, there would be no harm in seeking treatment through NLP, she said.

Members of the team worked in Samoa after the tsunami and in New York after September 11, 2001. The technique was internationally recognised, Ms Ross said. “New Zealanders are a little behind the eight ball.”

The team will spend a week in Christchurch talking to medical authorities about how they can help.

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