While New Zealand is having a significant drought, one of the worst in decades, farmers and rail operators have come together to deliver much needed grain to agricultural communities in Hawke’s Bay.
KiwiRail is currently transporting up to 10 40-foot containers full of hay from Ashburton on the South Island to Napier on the North Island. Each day from Wednesday, June 17 a wagon load of wrapped silage, a type of preserved fodder, will be transported north from Timaru.
KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said that the initiative was about supporting KiwiRail’s customers.
“We move dairy products, beef, lamb, horticulture and viticulture for the rural sector so it is one of our most important customers, and we’re pleased to support it now at this time of need,” he said.
“We’ll carry the feed and we’ll carry the cost because everyone who’s seen the parched farmland can understand how hard this is on rural communities.”
The initiative began when Nicky Hyslop, a farmer near Timaru, recognised the need of farmers in the Hawke’s Bay region.
“We started making enquiries about how we could get it to Hawke’s Bay and it was looking really difficult until I got a call saying KiwiRail was offering to help. That was the game changer.”
Federated Farmers’ South Canterbury provincial president Jason Grant said that farmers in his region were donating where they could, and that the program wouldn’t be possible without KiwiRail’s assistance.
“Cartage is a big cost and it’s hugely appreciated that KiwiRail is donating space on their freight trains. We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise and we appreciate it down here, as I know they do in Hawke’s Bay, too.”
Miller said that there was capacity for KiwiRail to help with the drought as freight volumes pick up following coronavirus (COVID-19).
“While our freight volumes are still recovering in the post-COVID period, we have some limited northbound capacity that we’ll be using when available, along with providing containers, to get this vital feed supply from Timaru and Ashburton up to Napier where it is needed.”