29 Feb 2016

Dairy downturn could get worse - lawyer

6:41 am on 29 February 2016

Stress levels are high in the dairy industry and the dairy downturn is likely to get worse before it improves, says an Auckland lawyer with many dairy farmer clients.

Dairy cow north of Matamata.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

John Waugh said his firm, Devonport Law, was helping a number of farmers who had defaulted on their loans and been handed property law notices.

And while Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy said dairy had a bright future, Mr Waugh was less optimistic.

Mr Waugh said he did not know how the minister could say that the medium to long term outlook was fine.

"I'm not sure exactly where he gets that from simply because, if the senior management at Fonterra haven't been able to get their predictions correct, I'm not sure how the minister does it."

"My experience at the moment is a lot of our clients here in Devonport Law are stressed, the outlook does not seem to be that good, and a lot of our clients are in discussions with their banks."

The banks were looking at the situation in a responsible way, Mr Waugh said.

"I see a variety of responses from the banks but clearly the banks are not interested in upping the stress but they have a responsibility to their own shareholders.

"My experience is many of the banks are in fact working closely with the farmers to try to achieve a downsizing of the assets and a reduction in debt, but unfortunately a lot of farmers are over-exposed to debt."

Mr Waugh is running a help stall at the Dargaville field days this week (from Wednesday to Friday) - sponsored by Farmers of New Zealand.