Hawke's Bay farmers urged to ask for help as drought deepens

A Hawke's Bay rural support group is urging farmers to seek help as severe drought-conditions worsen in the region and concern grows about their mental health.

The Hawke's Bay Rural Advisory Group said the southern half of the region was about to enter its seventh month of below normal rainfall, and there was no sign of the drought breaking.

RAG co-chair Lochie MacGillivray said it was critical that farmers impacted by the drought, tap into the free advice available, and plan ahead.

"If you aren't already, now is the time to talk to your trusted advisers and make a comprehensive plan for winter and beyond.

"The Rural Support Trust is your friend, contact them and get free advice from people experienced in managing drought conditions. The trust is supported by the RAG, who has teams working in specialist areas; water, feed, mental wellbeing, and animal welfare," said MacGillivray.

The drought had caused significant feed shortages, exacerbated by a reduction in processing capacity as a result of the new protocols that processing companies must follow in order to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown.

"Farmers need to act now and work out how much feed they have and what steps they need to take, in case they are not able to get their stock processed when they want," he said.

While supplementary feed was a viable alternative for some, it won't be adequate for some animals in the winter months - particularly for those on hill country, where access is difficult.

"Generating pasture cover is critical before the onset of winter."

There was a concern about farmers' mental health as the drought continued.

"We want to send a strong message out to the rural community that it's ok to not be ok and to feel overwhelmed. You aren't alone, and there are people available who can help shoulder the burden and guide you through this," he said.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council's principal air scientist, Dr Kathleen Kozyniak said rain was expected this Sunday as a front moves over the country from the West.

"An area of low pressure may develop to the east of the North Island behind it, which could bring periods of rain next week. However, it is too early to gauge whether this will eventuate.

"To break the drought, the region requires about 60-80mm of rain over two weeks," said Dr Kozyniak.

The Rural Advisory Group is the lead agency for the drought response in Hawke's Bay and is made up of farmers, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, councillors, Ministry for Primary Industries, Federated Farmers, the NZ Fire Service, Beef and Lamb NZ, and Silver Fern Farms.

Support information: 

  • If you need support, call 0800 787 254, and you can speak with a representative from the East Coast Rural Support Trust, who are experienced in managing severe drought conditions on farms.
  • For advice and the latest information about the drought, go to www.hbrc.govt.nz/environment/farmers-hub/drought-crisis-hub/ or search #drought.
  • Use the new feed budgeting service. The first two levels of help are free. Call 0800 4DAIRYNZ or 0800 BEEFLAMB.
  • If you feel you're not coping, it's important to talk with a health professional. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • For urgent access to essential household goods and services (7am-7pm) call 0800 422 923.