Environment Canterbury does not accept any responsibility for the north branch of the Ashburton River bursting its bank and spewing tonnes of gravel onto farms in Mid-Canterbury.
The regional council has come under increasing fire from farmers in the district who allege a lack of river maintenance caused a build up of shingle that had nowhere to go when the deluge hit on May 30.
Ashburton Forks farmer Darryl Butterick was considering forming a group to fight to get Environment Canterbury (ECan) to accept responsibility after his farm sustained over $1 million of damage.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a $4 million dollar package to help farmers on Thursday.
They have got to grow some balls and step up.
READ MORE:* Flood-affected Ashburton farmers slam $4 million support package* Flood-weary farmers want Government to stump up with more cash* Flood-weary farmers brace for more heavy rain in Canterbury
It came as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited the Ashburton area on Thursday to unveil a $4m funding package to help farmers affected by last months flooding
Butterick said he had asked an ECan representative who came to his farm whether the regional council had insurance to put the shingle smothering his land back into the riverbed, but was told the council was not insured for a natural disaster.
ECan river manager Leigh Griffiths said the council did hold a range of insurance policies, but would not comment on specifics or whether the recent flooding would trigger any of the policies.
Griffiths said the council was confident that its flood protection infrastructure did its job, and that it could not accept allegations of mismanagement or any responsibility.
However, this differed from comments to Stuff from ECans Mid-Canterbury councillor John Suncknell earlier this week, when he said in hindsight the council could have done more to maintain the rivers.
We will learn from it but how we do the work is the real challenge for us.
Suncknell went on to say the council had a responsibility to get all the rivers in the region back to a state of being safe, which would allow farmers to begin repair work.
Griffiths said the council had not made funding available for the removal of shingle from private properties and to do so would require a specific council decision and appropriation.
Ardern took a look at the mess the floods left behind on Chris and Anne-Marie Allens farm in Mid-Canterbury.
Mid-Canterbury Federated Farmers president David Clark said the problem was not with the amount of water that came down the river.
Its a shingle event.
Clark said the flood capacity of the Ashburton River was significantly reduced because 1.3 million cubic metres of shingle had built up from natural degradation from the Southern Alps and needed to be removed.
He believed that ECan could potentially be held responsible for not clearing the shingle.
Ardern refused to be drawn on ECans culpability during her visit to Ashburton on Thursday.
Ardern visits the Allens farm near Ashburton, which was flooded during recent heavy rain.
When asked by Stuff if ECan should be held responsible for the flood damage she deferred, saying she did not want farmers to experience issues with remedial work just because of differences on who was responsible.
However, Stuff understands the government is in ongoing talks with the council about river management in the region.
Mid-Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Peter Reveley was unhappy with the $4m to help farmers, saying there was $10 million needed just to shift the shingle ECan should have cleared in the Ashburton River.
It means some farmers will walk away from the land.
The problem for farmers like Butterick was that insurance does not cover flood damage to their land.
Farmers can insure fencing, irrigation and livestock at a cost, but there may be sub-limits that preclude paying out above a certain amount, Insurance Council of New Zealand spokeswoman Leah McNeil said.
For fencing there could be a total of $20,000 to repair damages to fences for floods.
She said if it was proven ECan had breached its duty and was liable, its liability insurance may respond, but this was specific to each situation.
Farmers and residents in North Canterbury have also been unhappy with ECans river management and believe it contributed to some of their floods.
Three residents in Okuku have approached Stuff to provide evidence about ECans management of the Okuku River.
Four homes and lifestyle properties were wrecked when the river diverted onto Staven McQuillans property.
He says he has been battling ECan over the situation for years before the river wrecked his farm and livelihood.
Griffiths said the council appreciated that the recent flooding event had been disastrous for many.
All our staff are working hard to respond to landowners needs and prioritising sites that require critical repairs.
Walking through debris the Prime Minister saw first-hand the devastation wrought by recent floods in Mid-Canterbury.

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