Weather: Central Otago growers attempt to salvage unharvested produce after extensive rainfall

Central Otago recorded its highest level of rainfall in 40 years as wild weather lashed the region.

About 150 millimetres fell on Saturday, but it means growers had the painful job of assessing the extent of the damage to their unharvested produce on Saturday and some have suffered substantial losses.

Hans Biemond of Biemond Market Gardens estimates one-third of his submerged broccoli crop won't be able to be saved and he's cutting his losses after the freak flood.

"If I cut them in the next wee while they'll still be alright. By tonight they'll all be buggered," he says.

Saturday's wild weather saw heartbreaking scenes for growers in the region as they watched their livelihoods literally go down the gurgler.

"Absolute devastation," Denise Paulin of Denise Orchard says. "Makes you weep."

Central Otago drowned in the heavy rains, which saw the Fraser River in Alexandra break its banks.

"I've never seen a system like this over central Otago before," Tony Lepper says.

"I think we might be heading for three to four inches and it only takes a couple of inches in central to usually flood."

Hans Biemond salvaging his submerged broccoli crop.
Hans Biemond salvaging his submerged broccoli crop. Photo credit: Newshub.

Panmure Orchards' job on Sunday was to clean up the surface flooding.

"Devastated. We've lost all our baby trees down the back we've planted this year. It's all underwater," Bridget Hiscock says.

The damage extends to their cool stores as well.

"Wrecked packaging, wrecked motors, wrecked vehicles. Everything's just under."

Their export-quality cherries were supposed to be picked this week but the water has made them swell and split. Now they are just cracked and ruined, and food for the birds.

"You've got the odd one - toughest cherries that's made it through. But yeah the majority of them have taken extensive damage, which is pretty much what you'll get after 36 hours of rain," Jeremy Hiscock says.

Flooding like this at this time of year means growers are mopping up, but more downpours are forecast in the coming week.