Writing this message has been a challenge – where do I even start?
The enormity of what we’ve been through and continue to endure is hard to put into words. In some ways me not knowing where to start reflects what we are experiencing on our orchards, properties, and homes. As we move from response to recovery, the enormity of the task ahead can make it hard to know where to begin.
I couldn’t get out to my orchards for 4 days and what I encountered was worse than I had envisioned. It took the next 3 days of going back and forth until I got my head around everything. One of my blocks has been flattened, the river also went through my orchard across the road but for the most part it is still standing. Last Monday we made the call to do everything we could to save the trees – this is a mammoth task as the silt is between 300 – 400mm deep on every square inch of my 5ha block. Will I save the trees? Will the orchard bloom again in October? I don’t know, but I need to give it my best shot.
There are growers and members of our association who have been hit extremely hard. A number have completely lost their orchards and their homes – our friends in the Dartmoor Valley, Esk Valley, Puketapu, Pakowhai, Twyford and Korokipo regions have experienced damage beyond belief. I am absolutely gutted for all of those impacted – my heart and genuine prayers go out to you and your families.
I am encouraged how people are pulling together, helping others where and when they can. This is community and this is the spirit of our growers. For me personally dealing with my loss has had its ups and downs – there has been lots of tears and hugs with my wife and others in the community. I fell emotion welling up now as I write this. The other day a grower just grabbed me and said “come here” and gave me a hug – this was powerful and I imagine helps us in our own healing and coming to terms with what has happened.
To help in this process we as an Association have engaged Wanda Douglas to provide free and confidential psychological support to our members and their families. Wanda is a Registered Psychologist with the NZ Psychologists’ Board. She is based locally in Taradale. HBFA will fund the first three one-hour sessions for impacted growers and/or their direct family members. If anyone feels like they need to talk with someone about anything please do not hesitate in calling Wanda on her personal mobile which is 021 1700 506. The Rural Support Trust is another way to reach out, they can be contacted on 0800 787 254.
Harvest must go on and 70% of our industry are out there picking, packing, and getting their fruit ready for market which is hugely important for us and our region. I know we are all cheering you on to pick and pack the best fruit HB can offer to the world.
I have had lots of media engagements where I have shared the plight our growers are facing but also letting them know our industry is resilient and the harvest is going on.
Finally, I’d just like reiterate the importance of community in getting through this event. I encourage you to keep communicating with your neighbours, your friends, and the wider horticultural community. This is an area that we will be focusing on over the coming weeks and months. If you have contacts or colleagues who are not members of the Association, please encourage them to reach out so we can include them in our communications and events. We will be waiving membership fees for the year ahead so there will be no cost to join.
Take care and please don’t be afraid to reach out directly if you have anything you’d like to get know or just someone to talk too.