Road User Charges incurred by trucking companies and smaller operators transporting hay to farmers in Nelson should be refunded, says National’s South Island Regional Development spokesperson Andrew Falloon.

“Over the past week, many of us in Canterbury and on the West Coast have looked on in desperation at the situation in the Nelson and Tasman districts.

“The fires have had a huge impact on the primary sector, destroying many hectares of feed and leaving farmers in a precarious position.

“Baling contractors in Mid and South Canterbury have got together with local transport operators to form the Nelson Fires Hay Convoy, a critical project getting much-needed feed to those who need it. Hay is also being sent up from the West Coast.

“The costs are substantial. The hay has been donated, and the trucking companies and smaller operators have generously come to the party in volunteering themselves to transport the feed.

“But there’s still the cost of fuel and of Road User Charges. At around $1,500 in Road User Charges for a return trip from Ashburton to Nelson, at least $18,000 in additional costs have been incurred so far, with many more journeys ahead.

“As a gesture of goodwill to the remarkable work that these contractors, companies and individuals are performing, I’ve written to Transport Minister Phil Twyford asking him to refund Road User Charges incurred during the deliveries.

“I’m aware of one dairy farmer significantly affected by the fire who has 400 stock on a paddock not much larger than a rugby field and next to no feed. When the convoy arrived he nearly broke down.

“For these farmers and those helping them temporarily forgoing what amounts to additional revenue would be a small but significant boost to this much-needed mission.”

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