11 Feb 2020

Northland drought conditions classified 'adverse event' by government

5:21 pm on 11 February 2020

The drought conditions in Northland have been classified as an "adverse event" for the primary sector, meaning government funding can be accessed to help out farmers.

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Agriculture minister Damien O'Connor has announced the drought conditions as an "adverse event". Photo: RNZ / Liz Garton

Announced by agriculture minister Damien O'Connor, it means $80,000 will be available for "targeted recovery assistance".

"This is recognition that the extreme and prolonged nature of this dry spell is taking its toll on our farmers and growers and additional support is needed," O'Connor said.

"We know they prepare for dry conditions in January and February, but these areas have been dry since November, on the back of much lower rainfall than normal through the whole of 2019. With little rain forecast for the next couple of weeks, things are getting tough."

The funding will help the Northland Rural Support Trust to facilitate recovery, run events to help get farmers off-farm and reduce isolation, provide education and technical advice for farmers, and provide one to one care as needed.

It can also give access to social welfare for those in extreme hardship, and increased flexibility with Inland Revenue.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, also Biosecurity Minister, Food Safety Minister, Rural Communities Minister, Trade and Export Growth Minister of State

Agriculture minister Damien O'Connor Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

O'Connor said despite farmers coping well so far, he was encouraging them to make use of the available support.

He was also keeping an eye on other areas as dry conditions increased in much of the North Island, the top of the South Island, and northern Canterbury."

The announcement came as Rob Forlong, Whangarei District Council (WDC) chief executive, said restrictions were likely for Whangarei, their implementation in large part so the district could adequately water for the Far North and Kaipara.

He said Whangarei's water supply was in reasonably good shape.

But water restrictions would likely be needed, to help ensure water for essential Far North and Kaipara needs.

Water trucked to the Far North will be taken from 1.3 million cubic metres of water stored in Whangarei's Whau Valley Dam - the second-largest municipal water supply in the region. The dam is currently 69 percent full.