Rail supporting Hawke’s Bay drought relief 

15 June 2020

KiwiRail is helping the drought relief effort by shifting stock feed for free from the South Island to parched farms in Hawke’s Bay.

“On top of the Covid-19 crisis, the prolonged drought in parts of the North Island has put some farmers and stock under great stress,” KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says.

“We move dairy products, beef, lamb, horticulture and viticulture for the rural sector so it is one of our most important customers, and we’re pleased to support it now at this time of need.

“We’ll carry the feed and we’ll carry the cost because everyone who’s seen the parched farmland can understand how hard this is on rural communities.

“While our freight volumes are still recovering in the post-Covid period, we have some limited northbound capacity that we’ll be using when available, along with providing containers, to get this vital feed supply from Timaru and Ashburton up to Napier where it is needed.

“No company is more Kiwi than KiwiRail. At such a difficult time for so many New Zealanders, we’re pleased to contribute in this practical way to the relief effort, and to demonstrate that KiwiRail cares.”

The feed campaign kicked off when Nicky Hyslop who, with her husband, runs a sheep, beef and cropping farm near Timaru, saw the Hawke’s Bay plight.

“I rang five farmers, who rang another five farmers and they all said ‘yes’ to contributing feed. It grew from there.

“We started making enquiries about how we could get it to Hawke’s Bay and it was looking really difficult until I got a call saying KiwiRail was offering to help. That was the game changer.”

Federated Farmers’ South Canterbury Provincial President Jason Grant says that a few years ago, Hawke’s Bay farmers were among those who helped out in South Canterbury after big snowfalls, “and now we’re happy to be returning the favour”.

“Feed is short all over the country but we’re not in as bad a position as Hawke’s Bay. Sometimes, our farmers are donating a few bales even when they’re in a tight position themselves because they know how it feels to be under pressure like that, and they want to help.

“Cartage is a big cost and it’s hugely appreciated that KiwiRail is donating space on their freight trains. We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise and we appreciate it down here, as I know they do in Hawke’s Bay, too.”

From today, KiwiRail will begin transporting up to ten 40-foot containers full of hay bales per week from Ashburton as capacity allows. From Wednesday, a wagon load of wrapped silage will be transported from Timaru daily. 

The initiative involves KiwiRail, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Federated Farmers, Rural Support Trust, Toll and Quigley Feeds.