Drought-stricken Hawke's Bay farmers get $500,000 Govt support package

The funding follows a similar package earlier this month.
The funding follows a similar package earlier this month. Photo credit: Hawke's Bay Regional Council

Farmers in Hawke's Bay struggling with a crippling drought have been given a further $500,000 in Government support.

The funding was announced on Tuesday by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and will go to the Mayoral Drought Relief Fund.

It comes as the region faces the worst drought in living memory.

Hawke's Bay farmers are under huge pressure as they deal with bare paddocks, hungry stock and limited supplementary feed. 

O'Connor says he signed off on the funding after receiving a letter from five local government leaders in Hawke's Bay on Monday asking for help.

The support will go to helping move feed to those who need it.

"Access to feed is the biggest acute issue facing drought-affected farmers right now. Feed is in very short supply in the North Island, so most has to be shipped up from the South. This funding will go towards subsidising the transport costs of getting feed up from the South Island," O'Connor said.

Farmers in Wairarapa have banded together in recent weeks to help out those in Hawke's Bay, but with little upcoming rain forecast the situation there remains dire. O'Connor said it was "great to see" other farmers pitch in to help.

"There are also a lot of heart-warming cases of farmers helping each other through community-driven feed drives, such as the donations of hay transported from the Wairarapa to Hawke’s Bay and another planned from the King Country."

He said national feed coordinators put in place two weeks ago by the Ministry for Primary Industries were also working to help farmers.

"The feed coordinators are making a real difference on the ground already. In just the first week, they identified 44 feed sources and matched them to farmers in need."

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Rural Advisory Group said the money was a "good start".

"While we acknowledge this contribution from the Government, we do want to say that this comes before the Minister is yet to see the extent of the drought, its impact on farmers, and their families," said the group's chair Lochie MacGillivray.

"Tomorrow the Minister will visit farmers across the region and learn first-hand from farmers about the profound challenges of this kind of drought, including accessing feed, and managing stock, to the mental hardship of working in these conditions with hungry animals," MacGillivray said.

Rex Graham, chairman of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, said the money came at a desperate time for farmers.

"We need to get help to as many of these farmers as we possibly can, because they have been important to our economy for 100 years, and are still very important. We need to help them for their family's sake, and for the economy's sake. We need them."

On Monday, the Central Hawke's Bay District Council pledged $50,000 to the Mayoral Drought Relief Fund, while consumer-owned electricity lines company Cetralines also pledged $50,000.

On Wednesday the Hawke's Bay Regional Council will consider a staff paper recommendation to contribute a further $200,000 to the fund.Tuesday's announcement follows another $500,000 package earlier this month from the Government, and brings the total amount of funding relief for drought-hit rural communities given this year to more than $17 million.

O'Connor said the total worth of farming, cropping and directly related agricultural production to the Hawke's Bay economy was $500 million.