Drought declared in lower North Island

The Government has declared a medium-scale adverse event in Taranaki, west Manawatu-Whanganui and Wellington, as drought begins to bite.

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O'Connor said it would trigger "additional Government support for farmers and growers in affected areas".

This includes a $160,000 funding boost for community services in affected regions, which can be used on organising local events, arranging recovery facilitators who work one-to-one with farmers, and recovery coordination.

It comes after National MP Barbara Kuriger accused the Government of downplaying the drought's seriousness.

"It's a very, very stressful time for farmers, so I'm concerned first and foremost about their welfare," she told Newshub.

"One thing that worries farmers more than anything is when they can't feed their cows."

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop thinks the drought is bad, but nowhere near as dire as Ms Kuriger is making it out to be.

"There will be some individuals who are really struggling, but I don't think it's quite there yet. I think it's really important to keep an eye on it… and for framers to make decisions early, rather than hanging on and hoping the rain may come."

Mr Dunlop says there hasn't been significant rainfall in the region since October, when a wet spell suddenly ended.

"It is concerning, particularly the fact that it's started so early. It's a long way to get through the summer - I'm also involved in farming, and I just know how difficult it can get if a drought goes on for a long time."

Mr Dunlop says he welcomes the support from the Government.

Mr O'Connor will be visiting affected farmers in Taranaki on Saturday.