3 Feb 2017

Drought declared in Northland

6:39 pm on 3 February 2017

Northland farmers say the government's drought declaration for the region comes as a relief.

Nathan Guy during caucus run 1.03.16

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has declared drought in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

There has been no significant rain in the north since late October, milk production is dropping by the day and many crops planted for winter feed have failed to thrive.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the drought was classified as a medium-scale adverse event, paving the way for farmers and growers to get financial help.

Craig Johnson, who farms near Kerikeri, says the official drought declaration will trigger welcome tax relief, help from rural support groups - and encourage more tangible support from the banks.

Mr Johnson said the long dry spell would cost him at least $100,000. It had wrecked farm budgets across the north.

Mr Guy said the Government would make extra money available to local organisations such as the Rural Support Trust.

He said in extreme cases farmers and growers could get rural assistance payments.

Mr Guy said Inland Revenue would provide flexibility for Northland farmers.

The drought announcement came after a request from local groups and advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries, which had been closing monitoring conditions.

"Farmers have been working hard and preparing for these conditions but things are getting tough and there is little rain forecast for the next couple of weeks.

"There is significant soil moisture deficits, low pasture covers, low supplementary feed and maize crops have struggled," he said.

Mr Guy said the drought reinforced the importance of irrigation and water storage schemes.

Last year Crown Irrigation announced it would spend $165,000 looking at options for irrigation schemes in Northland.

He said the Government was keeping a close eye on drought conditions on the North Island's East Coast - where farmers were trying to source extra feed and looking at culling their herds - as well as supporting North Canterbury farmers as that region recovered from drought.

Gisborne might be next

The Gisborne District has recorded the driest January in 112 years, with 4mm measured at the airport's rain gauge.

The Gisborne District Council enforced a level two water restriction today, meaning a ban on the use of sprinklers.

MetService said last week it was a "particularly" dry season.

Federated Farmers would seek a drought declaration, unless there was some meaningful rain.

Northland president John Blackwell said last week if the hot weather continued, it would become a "serious issue".

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