More regions likely to ask for drought relief
Thursday 28 Feb 2013 9:31 a.m.
Northland will probably be just the first region in the country declared to be in a state of drought, as the big dry continues in much of the North Island.
Yesterday's declaration by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy means farmers in the region could be eligible for relief assistance.
"I went and had a look in Northland yesterday, and it became very clear when I moved around part of Northland yesterday, that indeed they are in severe drought conditions," Mr Guy told Firstline this morning.
"Farmers can head into [the Ministry of Social Development] and seek some support, and what I mean by that is the unemployment benefit."
Mr Guy says farmers will also get non-financial assistance from the Rural Support Trust.
"These are a group of people that sit around the kitchen tables and work through the issues with farmers. What I'm really concerned about is the pastoral care of farmers – a prolonged drought can cause financial hardship, but we've also got to watch the emotional support as well."
He says the Waikato will probably be next to ask for help, followed by the Hawke's Bay.
"It looks likely Waikato are calling a meeting later this week, and also Hawke's Bay it looks like in the early part of next week."
He says the last time Waikato had a drought, "it took about $1 billion out of the bottom of the line for New Zealand".
Northland's last drought cost the local economy $30 million.
"Governments over the last few decades have always supported situations where there have been natural adverse events," says Mr Guy.
"We had the big flood in 2004, previous to that we've had Bola, we've had snow events, of course we've had the earthquakes. So at the point in time the Government makes a decision that we need to provide some support."
Asked why the Government is supporting farmers in their time of need, but not the manufacturing industry struggling with the high dollar, Mr Guy said the assistance offered was of a "reasonably low level".
"Over periods of time… there is a long precedent for a natural adverse event like this one – and it's on a pretty big scale now – that the Government does provide what is fundamentally a reasonably low level of support. So what I'm indicating is the Government is responding, but at the end of the day it's only a small amount of support.
"Farmers need to work closely together to ensure they're supporting one another."