Chris Hipkins visits decimated Hawke's Bay orchards, promises community fearful of looting that he's listening

The Prime Minister, on the ground in Hawke's Bay for a second time, found himself back in a community still on edge about looting and violence.  

Chris Hipkins was due to visit Wairoa, but again his visit was scuttled, this time by a broken-down NZDF helicopter.

He instead visited kiwifruit and apple growers in decimated Puketapu, where cars litter fields and cabins sit high in trees.

Ngai Tukairangi Trust grower Ratahi Cross wasn't beating around the bush today, telling the Prime Minister: "What a time to be PM. I hope you have money in the bank?"

The kiwifruit and apple grower told Newshub his crop losses amount to $30 million and counting.

Forty hectares worth of crop built up over generations has been destroyed, and as with all crops they cannot be insured. 

"We were born and bred here. We're here to keep going. We're here to get the region back again as quickly as we can but we're going to need your help to do that," Cross said.

Fellow grower Mark Ericksen said: "It's a race against time because we're dealing with silt that's like suffocation."

The Prime Minister saw that first-hand, describing it as "confronting."

"When you actually see it upfront, it brings home the reality," Hipkins told media.

After a dusty roadie through Waiohiki and Puketapu, he met with horticulturalists in Hastings.

They begged first and foremost for help to clear silt, fix the stop banks, and as one grower put it, "for the Government to go big, go hard, go early".

Another said the Government's initial $25 million for farmers and growers impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle has "been great, the initial money, but it is nowhere near the quantity that we will need."

Hipkins told Newshub clearly there is a balance between "getting the place cleaned up and making sure this doesn't happen again."

"We know more government support is required. We have to work through carefully what that looks like, how we can do that equitably, fairly and transparently."

An added headache for some growers and their residential neighbours continues to be looting.

Last night's community meeting in Bay View at times was fiery and tense as locals shared their concerns with the Police Minister, police and politicians from across the spectrum.

"All of our hearts are broken but we're all feeling unsafe," said Louise Parsons.

"Everybody is scared, no one is sleeping properly," another said.

One resident told the Police Minister his local gun shop had virtually sold out of shotguns.

"A lot have armed up. Whether you want to hear it or not, people have their guns out. It is only a matter of time."

Gun retailers in the region have told Newshub they have not sold out and people are not arming up. 

"We haven't sold a single shotgun since reopening last Tuesday, but there's no doubt emotions are running high in the community," said Gun City Napier owner Aaron Smith.

Napier Police maintain 145 extra officers are on the street.

While Police Minister Stuart Nash does not agree that bringing in the military "in a policing role" is warranted, he told Newshub: "I accept maybe we could've done things a little different in the very early days."

The Prime Minister also accepted on Wednesday on his visit to Hawke's Bay that he shouldn't have dismissed community fears of gun violence at roadblocks, but he was given incorrect information last week by Police.

Newshub understands it was not Police Commissioner Andrew Coster who fed that information directly to the Prime Minister, it was a flow of information at an office-to-office level. 

Late on Wednesday, Newshub was advised Coster has "owned the mistake" and apologised to the Prime Minister.

Miscommunication aside, all residents across Hawke's Bay want is to feel safe and supported.