26 Feb 2013

Drought package for Northland awaited

10:25 pm on 26 February 2013

The Government is expected to announce a drought relief package for Northland this week following an application for drought status by farmers in the parched region.

Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker says most areas have gone weeks without rain and none is forecast for the next fortnight.

Ms Jonker said milk production is falling rapidly as farmers dry off some cows and move to once-a-day milking. Sheep and beef farmers are also having to sell stock as they run out of feed.

Representatives from the upper North Island region want a drought to be declared from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Cape Reinga giving them access to funds for meetings, counselling and expert advice to help farmers through the period.

A drought declaration also triggers emergency financial help for those who lose their incomes.

Northland Federated Farmers expects that could apply to about 20 families in the region.

Julie Jonker said the lesson from the drought in 2010 was that it was better to act quickly than to put off declaring one.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said on Tuesday a relief package should be announced by the end of the week, but it is unlikely to apply to other regions experiencing drought-like conditions.

Mr Guy said those areas - on the east coast of the North Island and in Waikato - are being monitored.

Water restrictions

Water restrictions are in force the upper North Island as the long dry spell continues.

The Kaipara Council has banned the use of sprinklers and garden hoses across the district, while the Far North Council is limiting water use in two Hokianga communities.

Only hoses with hand-held trigger attachments can be used in Omapere or Opononi.

Filling the swimming pool, using a garden sprinkler for anything other than commercial purposes and running a car-wash are also banned until further notice.

Far North council spokesperson Dave Penny said the council wants all householders to cut their water use by 10%.

Mr Penny said there has been no significant rain since Christmas and the north could be in for a dry autumn.