West Coast flooding runs new river through farmer's best paddocks

The flooding on the West Coast two weeks ago has left one farmer with one very big problem: there's a brand new river running right through some of his best paddocks.

The replacement bridge being built across the Waiho River finally reached the other side on Wednesday night, but it'll be a few more days before it's reopened to traffic.

"So getting the bridge across is one big milestone, but there's a lot of work to do following that," Downer General Manager Scott Ford said.

"Taking out all the rollers that you roll the bridge across on, we've got to jack it up off all the piers and actually put the permanent bearing and all the beams in."

As well as washing away the bridge, the torrential rain a fortnight ago smashed through stopbanks. It also devastated the nearby airfield, damaging a Piper Cherokee light plane.

The deluge ploughed through a number of farms at Waiho Flats, blowing out fences and turning grass paddocks into raging torrents.

Neil Frendrup runs over a thousand stock at a Franz Dairies farm, and is shocked by the scale of the devastation. Two weeks ago he had grazing paddocks, now a fast-flowing river has split the farm in two.

"Over the years I've looked at the stopbank and it seemed to be very, very good," he told Newshub. "It's just lack of maintenance by the council was really the cause of it failing."

It's cut access to farmland, washed away winter feed and destroyed crops.

"There's 42 hectares of swedes and they were growing very nicely," Waiho Flats farmer Richard Molloy said. "And now there's probably less than half of that survived."

The West Coast Regional Council considered getting rid of the stopbanks altogether, but have been persuaded to completely rebuild them.

It's welcome news for flood-hit farmers who are now waiting for rural support teams to arrive once the bridge reopens.