Donated tractors welcome news for farmers recovering from cyclone devastation


Two tractors — a Case IH JX100 and a New Holland TD5.90 — were donated to farmers in need of extra support after Cyclone Gabrielle, as part of the Commence the Re-Fence initiative

In the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, there’s been a welcome reason to smile for at least two of the farm families impacted by the disaster.

When Cyclone Gabrielle hit in February last year, it left an estimated $13.5 billion worth of damage to become one of the costliest tropical storms New Zealand has experienced. Soon after, the Commence the Re-Fence initiative was born, with machinery dealership Stevenson & Taylor and CNH working with Federated Farmers to start helping farmers in the Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne area reinstate kilometres of lost fencing.

Federated Farmers involved fencing contractors and ‘Farmy Army’ volunteers to assist and Stevenson & Taylor, in conjunction with CNH, donated two tractors — a Case IH JX100 and a New Holland TD5.90 — to the re-fencing effort.
Once Commence the Re-Fence came to an end, the intention was to donate the two tractors to farmers seen as in need of some additional support, and two recipients were announced recently.

Lil Poulton has put the Case IH tractor to work on her property in the Patoka district, while Colin Skudder, from Tokomaru Bay, has taken home the New Holland one.

People were asked to nominate a farmer severely impacted by the disaster and who was seen as in need of some extra help. Dozens of nominations were received, and CNH network development business manager Murray Grant says it was an incredibly tough task for those making the final decision.

“It was inspiring to see the resilience, courage, and bravery of these farmers in the wake of the disaster, and the amazing support everybody provided to help people get back on their feet,” Murray says.

Lil Poulton with the family’s new Case IH tractor. She’s pictured with (from left) Robby Smith, Murray Grant, Terry Copeland, John Kilmister, and Jim Galloway

Lil Poulton and her family — children Ruby, Henry, and Oscar — have a 440-hectare property where they run a sheep and beef operation. They lost a lot of fences and two bridges in the cyclone, as well as tracks and culverts that were severely impacted by erosion.

The Commence the Re-Fence project helped reinstate some of the fencing, a bridge has been rebuilt, and Lil says they were almost back to the pre-cyclone production levels. But it’s been a tough road, made even harder with the loss of Lil’s husband Rob only a few months after Gabrielle swept through.

She says the new tractor would be of great assistance, with a 20-plus-year-old tractor doing all the work up to now.

“It’s just so incredible to have been given this tractor, and we’re so grateful and very humbled. The level of support we’ve received has been amazing, and to me, it shows our rural communities are just the best of people,” Lil says.

Colin Skudder is the manager of Marotiri Farm Partnership in Tokomaru Bay on the east coast, and while the property was badly affected by the cyclone with stock, fencing and land lost, it was Colin’s efforts as the Civil Defence Lead for Tokomaru Bay that secured him the the New Holland TD5.90.

The community was isolated for several weeks after the cyclone, and Colin was instrumental in clearing a track that allowed for the transportation of hospital staff, medical supplies, nurses and doctors, food, and water as well as required tradesman electricians and builders to Te Puia Springs daily.

“For two weeks, no vehicles could get in and out of Te Puia Springs and Colin’s track, as well as the expertise to drive the track in hazardous conditions, was vital for the welfare of staff, patients, and residents of Te Puia Springs,” Colin’s nominee said.

“If it wasn’t for Colin and his innovative transport solutions and off-road track, staff of Te Puia hospital who had been working 24/7 for five days would not have been relieved of their duties, staff needing to take over would not have got there, the shop would not have had its power connected up to the generator, and residents and the hospital would not have received medication or gas to cook with.”

Colin says the tractor would likely be used on the farm he manages, a handy upgrade from the “bit old and tired” one currently in operation.

“It was a devastating event for so many people and this Commence the Re-Fence initiative was critical in providing assistance that made a real difference to those trying to rebuild. We were proud to have played a part and glad these tractors have gone to such deserving farmers,” Murray says.

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