Government unveils $10 million drought relief package

A major drought relief package has been announced by the Government to get water to parched regions and help struggling farmers.

Sustained rain is needed to break the drought in the upper North Island and no significant rainfall is forecast until May.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor recently extended drought classifications for the primary sector, unlocking Government recovery assistance measures for farmers and growers.

A new $10 million relief package was announced on Thursday in Northland, one of the worst affected regions, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"The rural sector across the North Island is currently doing it tough with significant and sustained droughts in many areas. 

"Water is running low across the board - for drinking supplies, the primary sector and firefighting storage - and we will help our communities to get through it," Jacinda Ardern said during a visit to Kaitaia.

The Government package includes $10 million to respond to immediate needs such as delivering water for consumption, sanitation, wastewater systems, stock welfare and horticulture.

Many farmers are struggling because of the lack of rain.
Many farmers are struggling because of the lack of rain. Photo credit: Newshub

It also includes $421,000 to extend the reach of Rural Assistance Payments - which can be used to buy water.

Two million has been committed to support farmers and growers following the large-scale drought classification across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams.

The relief package is additional to the $2 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to set up temporary water supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe and sits alongside Defence Force deployments to help with essential water resupply through tanker trucks and crew.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the longer extreme drought conditions continue, the greater the threat to water supplies that are already severely restricted in some places.

"Northland is particularly vulnerable with severe water restrictions already in place, a high number of people on water tanks, and significant areas of deprivation. 

"We must act now to have the systems and support in place to assist communities already stressed by drought conditions and the associated water shortages,'' Henare said.

The package would focus on solving immediate needs, which could not otherwise be sorted out through existing sources and suppliers, and ensuring adequate water supply to North Island communities.

"Providing water for human consumption and sanitation purposes will be the highest priority,'' said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

 "I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of councils to support their communities to date. With this initiative we envisage working with local councils and suppliers in Northland and other affected areas to deliver targeted solutions as required.

 "While the funding announced today is intended to address immediate water-supply issues, it also provides a timely opportunity to advance our conversations with councils about developing sustainable, resilient water service delivery models."