26 Mar 2014

West coast drought now official

3:25 pm on 26 March 2014

Dry weather plaguing farmers on the west coast north of Auckland is officially a drought.

On Northland's west coast.

On Northland's west coast. Photo: SUPPLIED

Councils from Auckland to the Far North met the Ministry for Primary Industries, Fonterra and farming sector groups on Tuesday and decided to classify a localised drought from Kaukapakapa north.

Federated Farmers Northland president Roger Ludbrook said he was pleased it had been officially classified a drought as that would help the wider public realise farmers on the Northland's west coast are suffering.

"It triggers the Rural Support Trust, so any farmers out there can approach the Rural Support Trust now for free advice but beyond that it doesn't mean much to them financially," Mr Ludbrook said.

"Probably gives them a greater argument with the IRD if they've sold a lot of cattle and they're looking to get into the IRD's income equalisation scheme."

Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said it would trigger tax concessions, and some legal leeway for those involved in sale contracts.

"This would affect people like graziers, or sale and purchase agreements where you have to have left a certain ground cover or a certain amount of supplement available," Ms Jonker said.

"It does mean that there's a little bit of leeway there."

Many farmers had moved their autumn calving cows to the east of Northland for grazing, and could soon need to look outside the region for feed, Ms Jonker said.

The head of Federated Farmers Dairy Section in Northland, Ashley Cullen, said farmers in the classified area would be apprehensive about what it could mean in the way of assistance for them.

Mr Cullen said farmers weren't asking for handouts, just acknowledgement that they were facing difficulties.

He said he hoped the people that really needed help would get it.

"It's a real kick in the guts for farmers following on from last year's drought and really stressful."

Same 'unlikely' in Waikato

Waikato Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup said it was unlikely a drought classification would be made in that region, even though there had been no significant rain for three months.

Farmers had been coping well and most have systems in place, Mr Bateup said.

"We've had very few calls and people are actually coping very very well and they're being proactive and I guess they're getting used to it now," he said.