Drought classification extended to all of Southland and parts of Otago

A drought classification has been extended to cover the whole of Southland and parts of Otago.

The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities, Damien O'Connor, announced on Tuesday the drought would extend to all of Southland, The Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago and Clutha districts. 

The drought was originally classified as a medium adverse event in the North Island across Taranaki, western parts of Manawatu-Whanganui and Wellington, and the Grey and Buller districts of the South Island's West Coast over the Christmas period. 

Committees in Southland, in a letter to Mr O'Connor yesterday, highlighted that this was an extremely unusual event for Southland.

Local rural support trusts and industry groups will receive an additional $130,000 of funding for recovery support. 

"We've been working with local farming groups, councils and NIWA to monitor how the drought has been progressing and the impact on the farming communities," O'Connor says. 

"Anticipated rain that could have provided respite just hasn't fallen in the right areas to mitigate the effects of the early hot dry summer."

While rain is predicted for later this week, the drought has already taken its toll on farms and will take time to recover from. 

"Farmers have been unable to grow sufficient feed for winter, and have been using stored feed and buying in supplements for stock, as well as selling off animals."

Significant rain has improved soil moisture in some of those areas, but recovery from the drought is an ongoing process, he says.