28 Feb 2020

Waikato, South Auckland drought declaration unlocks government funding

3:14 pm on 28 February 2020

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has declared the drought conditions in Waikato and South Auckland an adverse event for the primary sector.

Sheep being fed plums in dry Waikato

Sheep in dry Waikato this month. Photo: Susan Murray

The declaration unlocks $80,000 of government funding for the Rural Support Trust to help support affected farmers and growers.

A similar declaration was made in Northland earlier this month.

O'Connor said the lack of any substantial rainfall over the past few months meant the drought situation in the region had reached the point where assistance was needed to help the rural community get through.

"Farmers in Waikato are no strangers to dry summers and they have had good grass silage on hand to date but the longer they go without rain, the harder it becomes to carry on as usual," he said.

"I'm continuing to keep a close eye on conditions in Northland as well as many other parts of the country, in case more help is required. The government is committed to doing all we can to support farmers and growers at what is a very challenging time."

Work and Income and Inland Revenue also had some recovery measures to help rural people get through drought.

O'Connor said farmers should seek professional advice from Rural Support Trusts, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, as well as talking to banks and accounts about help with payments.

RNZ Country Life's weekly survey of regional farm conditions found many farmers struggling due to the lack of rain.

  • Northland farmers are desperate for rain
  • Around Pukekohe, about 20mm of rain arrived last weekend but otherwise conditions are dry
  • Farmers around south Waikato are regularly checking troughs to check on water levels - when it's hot, cows can drink a hundred litres each a day
  • Bay of Plenty farmers are using winter feed reserves
  • Taumarunui remains dry and streams and dams are drying up

Announcing the drought warning, O'Connor said the government support was "recognition that the extreme and prolonged nature of this dry spell is taking its toll on the primary sector and additional support is needed".

"The lack of any substantial rainfall over the past few months means that the drought situation in the region has reached the point where assistance is needed to help the rural community get through."

Auckland's Watercare residents this week to curb water use after water use records were broken three times in a week.

It warned that city water restrictions may be in place in April if hot, dry conditions continued.

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