Newshub Nation: Finance Minister Grant Robertson defends current lack of further Cyclone Gabrielle relief funding – Newshub

Newshub Nation spoke to an orchardist on the East Coast who is having to spend $70,000 per hectare removing silt and debris from their ravaged property, and there are reports of some having to spend as much as $130,000 per hectare. Credits: Photo: Getty, Newshub Video: Newshub Nation
Many impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle are struggling to make sense of their future with so much uncertainty about critical further support, but Finance Minister Grant Robertson has defended the delay.
Robertson spoke to Newshub Nation’s Simon Shepherd and refused to say when the next stages of cyclone recovery aid will come, but said something is in development and the Government is "moving as fast as we can".
The Government has so far approved over $50 million in grants for farmers and growers hit hard by the weather event. 
There are grants of up to $10,000 for pastoral and arable farmers/growers and $2000 per hectare up to a maximum of $40,000 for horticulture growers. 

Newshub Nation spoke to an orchardist on the East Coast who is having to spend $70,000 per hectare removing silt and debris from their ravaged property, and there are reports of some having to spend as much as $130,000 per hectare. 
While those impacted say they appreciate the support, for many, the $2000 per hectare is a drop in the ocean.
Robertson said that the initial amount is small "because we have to make sure that the initial fund reaches the number of people who are in need".
"We will continue to make sure that we support people in that immediate recovery," he added. 
A new phase of funding for cyclone-impacted businesses and primary industry is expected soon, but as of yet there are no details and those who are struggling say they need some certainty they will be supported if they are to continue rebuilding their lives. 
"The next phase of it is one where there does need to be some cooperation and collaboration between farmers and growers, the banks, central and local government, and those conversations are starting to happen," Robertson said.
Cyclone Gabrielle happened six weeks ago, coming to an end on February 16.
Robertson called the Government’s support thus far significant.
"We’ve put more than $50 million in here and then no doubt there will be more that comes through and over the next little while to support people," he said.
"This has to be a partnership between central government, local government and businesses and the banks because this is actually about the long-term future here."
While farmers and orchardists are struggling to get back on their feet, a hole is being created for those who would usually process the meat and fruit produced. 
The sector employs many workers along the East Coast and is fully integrated into the social fabric of the area. Without work, these jobs are in jeopardy. 
Robertson said he’s "working with some of the larger businesses to make sure that they can keep going".
"If you haven’t got anything to process, it’s tough," he admitted.
"We are talking to some of those larger businesses about the ways in which we might be able to produce some support to allow them to keep their workforce in place."
Robertson would not call it a wage subsidy, instead saying it will be a "business by business approach".
Many impacted by the cyclone who Newshub Nation spoke to fear that the next support announcements will not happen until May, when the 2023 Budget is announced.
While it’s understood that the Government needs to collect a massive amount of data to inform their decisions on how to best fund the recovery, there are concerns that having to wait until May will compromise their ability to order building supplies and trees for next season on time. 
The cyclone recovery task force had its first full meeting this week, six weeks after Gabrielle. 
Robertson said that "doesn’t mean that work hasn’t been underway".
"Sir Brian Roche who is chair of the task force has been doing a huge amount of work with the team that he’s got with him."
Another area of uncertainty causing stress and stalling progress on the East Coast is not knowing what areas are going to be red-zoned.
Robertson said he "100 percent gets the desire for certainty, but we’ve also got to make the right decision as well".
"We want the community involved in that conversation, we don’t just want to dictate it."
However, Robertson also warned that "not everyone in the community is going to agree about what the right steps forward are, so we actually have to bring them along with us".
He emphasised "we’re moving as fast as we can but if you think about Canterbury, it was four months" after the earthquakes until decisions were made on what areas would be red-zoned. 
"I think we’ll be able to do it much quicker than that," Robertson said. 
Watch the full video for more. 
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