Agriculture Minister declares Northland drought 'adverse event'

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has classified the drought conditions in Northland as an adverse event for the primary sector.

Drought-like conditions have been worsening across the region, with some farmers culling stock suffering in the conditions, and water and feed reserves running low.

O'Connor said the move would unlock $80,000 in Government support.

"This is recognition that the extreme and prolonged nature of this dry spell is taking its toll on our farmers and growers and additional support is needed," said O'Connor.

 "We know they prepare for dry conditions in January and February, but these areas have been dry since November, on the back of much lower rainfall than normal through the whole of 2019. With little rain forecast for the next couple of weeks, things are getting tough."

 He said he had taken the move on the advice from industry groups who had been keeping an eye on the situation.

 "They met again today and have said that the situation was now beyond the rural community's ability to cope and they have requested assistance," he said.

Damien O'Connor said affected farmers should seek support from their local Rural Support Trust, industry groups and rural professionals.
Damien O'Connor said affected farmers should seek support from their local Rural Support Trust, industry groups and rural professionals. Photo credit: Newshub

 The additional funding was for targeted recovery assistance. 

"This helps the Northland Rural Support Trust to facilitate recovery, run events to help get farmers off-farm and reduce isolation, provide education and technical advice for farmers, and provide one to one care as needed."

It could also give access to social welfare for those in extreme hardship, and increased flexibility with Inland Revenue.

Despite the challenges, it was believed that the majority of farmers and growers were coping.  

"People are making the hard decisions needed on culling stock, purchasing feed, prioritising crops, and switching to once-a-day milking." 

 Damien O'Connor said affected farmers should seek support from their local Rural Support Trust, industry groups and rural professionals who can provide information about managing dry conditions.

"I'm continuing to keep a close eye on other areas across the country as dry conditions increase in much of the North Island, the top of the South Island, and northern Canterbury."

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