9 Dec 2010

Waikato may be next declared in drought

7:56 am on 9 December 2010

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is expected to recommend that the Waikato region be declared a drought zone.

Waikato drought committee representatives have asked for an area stretching from the south of Auckland through to Ruapehu district to be classified as a drought zone again.

MAF officials will report to the Minister of Agriculture David Carter, who may make the declaration as early as Friday.

On Wednesday, all areas north of Auckland Harbour were declared a medium-level drought zone.

Northland has not recovered from the severe summer-autumn drought it suffered and has had a serious lack of spring rain.

Rural families still receiving support

A Government declaration triggers relief measures that include funding for rural support trusts to provide farm management advice and welfare support.

Northland Rural Support Trust adverse events co-ordinator, Julie Gregson, says a number of Northland farming families and rural businesses whose incomes were ruined by the previous drought are still receiving support payments.

Waikato Rural Support Trust chair, Neil Bateup, says almost 30 farming families in that region are also still getting income support that was due to run out at the end of this month.

Water storage

Meanwhile, Federated Farmers is suggesting its members in affected regions work with local councils and the Government on water storage.

Federated Farmers Waikato spokesperson Stew Wadey says in the future farmers may need to compete with hydro electricity companies for the right to draw water from rivers.

"We need to debate that in a sensible manner," he says, "and find out what generates more wealth for New Zealand, a litre of water going into a dairy cow to produce an export product or a litre of water going through the dam so you have your standby on your TV on all night."