On the night of 13 February 2023, Cyclone Gabrielle brought intense rainfall to the Thomsen’s Patoka property and turned Lindholm Farm into a swathe of slips and debris.

They woke to more than 5km of farm road out of action, access to town eliminated and an immeasurable amount of work ahead to get the farm back on track. We sat down with brothers, Hamish and Greg Thomsen, to talk about their experience, the insurance claims that followed and what they’ve learnt along the way.

Three generations live at Lindholm Farm in Patoka. Hugh Thomsen, son Greg and grandson Rupert, now 18 months old. There are two houses, about 4km from each other and a significant piece of road infrastructure that snakes its way through the property joining Hugh’s house with Greg and his wife Emma’s place. Greg’s brother Hamish lives in Napier. As an accountant, he is pretty good at adding things up, but he did not factor the repair of more than 20km of fence lines into his plans for 2023.

“I phoned Dad first thing the next morning and asked how the night had been. The whole hillside had come down, travelled over the road and landed in Dad’s garden, blocking the driveway. We were lucky the house was untouched.”

“The hills quite literally gave way under the weight of the rain. We lost an estimated 40 to 50 hectares of grazeable land. Much of which had washed down the valley, causing devastation along the way,” adds Hamish. Access became a real problem for Greg who took two hours to make the usual 5-minute journey to his Dad’s house. The two-wheeler was the only vehicle capable of safely navigating the new terrain.

Greg says they were lucky, and things could have been much worse, but the workload ahead was a daunting prospect. “We had no power and no access to town after the bridge over the Mangaone River was wiped out. The main bridge through the farm was also gone, meaning we had to travel via neighbouring farms, taking up to half an hour for a trip that would have previously taken 5 minutes. With fences down, cattle were everywhere – it was chaos,” he says.

Greg and Emma’s son, Rupert, 6-monthsold at the time, was blissfully unaware of what was unfolding around him. From his home in Marewa, Napier, Hamish quickly became the conduit between town and country for the Thomsens. “I would drive out to the Rissington, where the previous bridge was, with jerry cans of petrol to keep the generators going. They would then be rafted across to Greg on the other side,” says Hamish.

With Greg occupied on farm, Hamish took on the job of navigating insurance claims. Hamish says there was no mucking round when it came to FMG getting onto their claims for the water system, fencing cover and other incidental damage on farm. “They checked our account, lodged our claims, we sent through pictures and the money was in the account,” says Hamish.

The EQC claim associated with the landslip at Hugh’s has taken a bit longer a they tend to do due to their technical nature. However, Hamish is grateful we have an insurance system for damage to land.

As for lessons along the way – Hamish says this was a kick in the butt to review and make sure the family fully understood what they had insured and what that would look like in any future event.

“I went through our policies, line by line. We had our water system insured for $5000, when the damage sustained took a $30,000 bill to replace. That is a big shortfall,” says Hamish.

“At the end of the day, we feel like we got off pretty lightly. FMG has taken the brunt of the financial losses off our shoulders and helped us navigate the claims process and as a family we have come together to get the farm back on track,” concludes Greg.

Now well stocked on generators, jerry cans and fencing gear, the Thomsens have just purchased a digger and bulldozer… just in case.