6 May 2020

Half-million dollar fund to help farmers recover from drought

2:40 pm on 6 May 2020

The Agriculture Minister has announced a new $500,000 fund to help farmers and growers prepare their businesses to recover from drought.

A parched paddock in southern Hawkes Bay

A parched paddock in southern Hawkes Bay Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Extremely dry conditions have impacted much of the North Island and parts of the South Island in recent months and in some areas, including Central and Southern Hakwe's Bay, the situation remains dire.

Damien O'Connor said through this new fund farmers could access up to $5000 of advisory services to equip rural businesses with the professional and technical advice they needed.

O'Connor said the ministry was also appointing two feed coordinators, to help farmers dealing with serious shortages.

"The fund will address the longer-term issues but there are also ongoing, acute issues that need to be addressed with urgency. Access to feed is the biggest acute issue so two feed coordinators are in place as of today, one in the North Island and another in the South, to make sure available feed gets from where it is to where it's most needed," he said.

Today's announcement brings the total amount of government funding pledged to rural communities affected by drought so far this year to $17 million, much of which has been specifically targeted at farmers.

O'Connor said the flow-on effects of water shortages and low feed availability take a long time to fully recover from and some farmers would be dealing with the effects of this drought for a year or more.

National Party's agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller said the government's new drought recovery advice fund was merely a drop in the bucket for supporting farmers affected by drought.

Muller said most farmers already knew what was needed to help their business recover, and it was insulting for the government to tell them they simply needed to seek more advice to get through the drought.

"The fund is specifically for providing affected farmers with recovery and planning advice, but does not contribute to farmers' rising feed costs or general business costs," he said.

New drought analysis shows this year is one of the most severe on record for parts of the country.

Niwa says river flows and soil moisture levels remain below normal for large parts of the North Island and upper South Island.

Meteorologist Ben Noll said this year's drought had a wide reach and long duration - similar to drought conditions in 2013, which were the worst in 40 years.

He said Auckland had been particularly hard hit with 77 consecutive days spent in drought or severe drought - compared with 58 in 2013.

Niwa expects average rainfall to decrease in the hardest-hit areas, which will likely mean more frequent droughts.

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