Canterbury floods: Farmers hope $4 million Government payment is just the start

The Government is giving flood-affected farmers in Canterbury $4 million to help them recover - but they're hoping it's just the start of payments to help them out.

Canterbury was hit with heavy rain at the end of May and many major roads were closed due to flooding. Farmers were also hard-hit, with many facing devastating damage to their properties.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the relief package on Thursday while in Ashburton - the first time she’s been there to talk through the real cost of the flood damage.

The payment is the news farmers needed to hear after the initial payout left them fuming.

The Government earlier declared the floods an adverse event and allocated $500,000 to help those affected, $100,000 to three Rural Support Trusts in the area, $350,000 making up the Canterbury Flood Response Fund, and $50,000 set aside for other recovery support. Grants were also offered to the worst-affected farmers starting earlier this week and all were offered the same amount of $3500.

"Some farmers are already having money put into their bank accounts to support them with remedial work that is perhaps uninsurable, so we’ve been able to move on that quickly," Ardern said.

"But there was no sense that was the only support we were able to provide, and as today demonstrates, it wasn't."

Farmers say it's a good start, but they're hoping for more.

"It's a good next step," says David Clark, Mid-Canterbury Federated Farmers president.

As farmers took Ardern around their flood-affected areas, they gave her a taste of the damage they’ve been struggling to deal with for the last month.

Some farms have been left looking more like river beds, and there are hopes that poor river management will be tackled down the track.

"We need to have a much bigger conversation going forward in how we manage shingle in Canterbury rivers," Clark says.

Canterbury communities also got a boost - $100,000 was given to the mayoral relief fund.

"We've done an assessment of fixing our local roads and we're at $7 or $8 million just for that, so $4 million probably won't be enough," says Mayor of Ashburton Neil Brown.

For many in Ashburton, it's the bridge that's front and centre. It closed after slumping in the middle, but now there is access for most vehicles.

"It's not fixed. It's got a band aid in it, a very expensive band aid," says local Sue Watson.

While Ardern did briefly stop to see the damage, that's as far as it went.

It was her first visit to the area following the floods where she could hear the real costs people in this district are facing from the floods.

While there, she had a closed-door meeting with mayors and recovery managers, and also had a private meeting on a farm to hear about the costs involved in their mammoth clean-up. 

Although Ashburton will be waiting a while longer for their second bridge to be built, farmers are buoyed by a boost which they hope is not the last.