15 Mar 2013

Drought status declared for entire North Island

9:44 pm on 15 March 2013

The whole of the North Island is now officially in a state of drought.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy made the announcement at a farm near Feilding on Friday morning after assessing applications from five more North Island regions seeking a Government drought declaration.

The West Coast on Friday became the first region in the South Island to request to be declared in a state of drought.

The Government had already declared medium scale droughts in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

Mr Guy says the rest of the North Island has now been added to that declaration following requests from many local groups.

Gisborne-East Coast, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Manawatu-Rangitikei and Whanganui-Ruapehu regions had all made formal requests to be officially deemed in drought. Wellington now joins them.

Government recognition triggers support measures ranging from tax relief to emergency payments for families who have lost their incomes.

Mr Guy says nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing the worst conditions in 30 years.

He says parts of the South Island, especially the Grey and Buller districts are also being monitored.

Mr Guy says the Government wants to support all farmers affected .

"I realise that right now farmers are experiencing a great deal of hardship and they're very anxious, waiting for the rain to come. The Government and New Zealanders are behind rural communities. We want to ensure that they get through this."

Some may have to quit farming

Farmers say some among their ranks could have to sell their farms or close as a result of the drought.

Federated Farmers' Manawatu dairy group chair James Stewart says Friday's announcement came as no suprise.

He says some farmers with high debts and lower incomes could be facing closure or may have to sell up.

"There's businesses that were under a bit of strain anyway with lower commodity prices, it's like any business - there's always some that struggle."

"This will top it all off and there possibly will be casualties from this."

Rural Support Trust chair Derek Spratt says this year is now about damage control and farmers should be doing everything to survive and focus on next year.

He says farmers should try to keep their cows in as good a condition as possible.

Urban woes

More urban areas in both islands are declaring water restrictions as reservoirs and rivers continue to drop.

In Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua a total ban on outdoor use of water comes into effect on Saturday.

Weekend rain predicted

MetService says rain is on the way this weekend across the country, which will help ease drought conditions in some areas.

Meteorologist Dan Corbett says weather conditions, influenced by the tail end of Cyclone Sandra, offer the best chance of rain the country has seen in weeks, with decent rainfall in most places by Sunday afternoon.

He says the heaviest falls are expected over the north and west of the South Island, with slips and surface flooding possible in Westland.

He says there will be several bursts of rain over much of the country towards the end of the weekend and into next week.