Community rallies round tornado-struck Rahotū farmers

The tornado slammed into Rahotū in Taranaki yesterday, .

Damage left on the Mullin‘s farm after the tornado swept through Rahotū. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

It brought down powerlines, ripped out trees and sent parts of buildings flying.

Today the tight-knit rural community banded together to help the couple whose farm was worst hit by the weather.

A hardy crew of farmers, tradesmen, factory workers and even bankers turned up on the Mullin‘s doorstep this morning wanting to lend the couple a hand.

Mr Mullin, 63, said he could only assume word had got out about how bad things were.

“It‘s pretty horrific in all fairness. We‘ve probably lost a workshop, two workshop. We‘ve lost three hay barns, half a house, three double garages.

“We‘ve probably lost in excess of 100 trees, there‘s power lines down all over the place and iron strewn everywhere.”

Paddy and Philly Mullin. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

However, things could have been much worse, he said.

His son Jordy sharemilks about 600 cows on the farm.

He and his workmate Jake Horington had a narrow escape when they had to hunker down in the milking shed as the storm passed overhead.

“Jordy and Jake are very lucky to be alive. When that tornado came through and if they hadn‘t got in out of that they would have been … God knows where they would‘ve been.

“There‘s a 10,000 litre tank which had liquid in it … its disappeared. We can‘t even find it. It must have gone up and over the main road somewhere.”

Mr Mullin said he was overwhelmed with today‘s turnout.

“We‘ve had people just turn up … a massive number from Pihama which is south of Ōpunake, guys from ANZ Bank.

“We‘ve had guys from Heydon Priest from Oakura. They turned up with a couple of guys and a truck and trailer. We‘ve got guys from Fonterra with chainsaws. Yeah nah, it‘s been fantastic.”

Chris Robinson Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Family friend Chris Robinson said it was only right to lend a hand to a mate in need.

“I‘ve been helping out on a digger. It just makes it a little more timely for him to get rid of the trees and then shifting a whole lot of tin and the remnants of old sheds and things.

“It‘s amazing how much is strewn everywhere, it‘s unbelievable.”

Denis O‘Connor and Nick Schmanski had come out from the petrol station in Oakura.

“When we heard … this had happened the boss said ‘get down there and help‘ and we said ‘for sure, yeah‘,” Mr O‘Connor said.

“We‘ve been picking up iron and clearing up the roadside. If the wind gets up the iron just flies everywhere. It‘s ultra dangerous.”

Iron has been strewn around the fields. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Farmer Hugh Wilson had come from even further afield.

“I‘ve come from from Inglewood on the other side of Mt Taranaki. It‘s about an hour‘s drive. We had a little bit of wind around there but nothing like here on the coast.

“We heard on the news, on Radio New Zealand actually, that some houses had roofs blown off and my concern as a farmer is all the corrugated iron lying around the paddocks.

“If the wind comes up again that‘s gonna hurt people.”

Farmer Jordy Mullen said he and a mate were left “hanging on for dear life” as a tornado passed over the milking shed. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Ms Mullin, who was busy feeding the volunteers lunch, said the huge response was a reflection of the unique coastal farming community.

“I‘m absolutely amazed at the support and people we didn‘t even actually know. I mean most of these people are guys we know, but there are people here we don‘t actually know that well.

“It‘s brilliant, we really appreciate it. It‘s quite humbling.”

Mr Mullin said he expected it would be at least a week before the power was back on all over the farm.

And he said he had not even begun to calculate how much the tornado had cost the business in dollar terms.