Government unlocks $2 million drought relief for farmers, growers

The Government has announced funding to help farmers and growers suffering in drought conditions.

A lack of rain has left some in a desperate situation which has been compounded by supply chain problems in China caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event.

The move unlocks up to $2 million in Government funding to support farmers and growers from now until June 2021.

The last large-scale adverse event classification for drought was in 2013.

"The intensity of the drought and its spread across multiple regions has affected many people and their livelihoods," said O'Connor.

The $2 million package includes drought coordinators and additional coordinators where needed, a feed working group and expanded psychosocial support, including $90,000 for Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa.

Damien O'Connor said drought conditions were putting pressure on rural communities.
Damien O'Connor said drought conditions were putting pressure on rural communities. Photo credit: Newshub

It would also fund animal welfare information and expertise, and professional advice for recovery.

"This new funding allows us to boost co-ordination efforts and activate some additional recovery measures, including for animal welfare and wider rural communities, while also ensuring there is funding to respond to future adverse events," he said.  

The classification covers the entire North Island along with the top of the South Island (Tasman, Marlborough, Kaikoura), North Canterbury and the Chatham Islands.

Drought relief has been extended to cover the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay regions with $90,000 in funding available for local Rural Support Trusts to assist primary sector communities, provide farm management advice and animal welfare support.

"Farmers and growers have shown that they are able to roll with the punches and most have been well-prepared for these types of events, but as the weeks go by without significant rain in many parts of the country, there is a cumulative impact," O'Connor said.

"It's getting very hard for people to keep planning for, and it puts pressure on rural communities."

Despite recent rain across parts of the North Island, many rural people remain under pressure with water shortages and low feed availability, he said.

 "It will take more than a few sprinklings of rain to get out of drought."

The funding is additional to the $300,000 provided to date to support drought-stricken regions:

Tailored packages would be developed to suit each region's needs.

For those already in a medium-scale event, there will be funding for additional drought co-ordinators if needed, as well as access to recovery advice for affected primary sector businesses.

"Funding for psychosocial support in affected regions will also be boosted, and we'll be working closely with farmers to help ensure the welfare of animals in their care."