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Drought declaration brings some relief for Northland farmers

Published: 5:39AM Wednesday February 27, 2013 Source: ONE News

Northland farmers, desperate for rain, have received some relief with the Government declaring a drought in the region.

The recognition of the dry conditions means more support can be given to farmers, who are struggling in the heat.

"This has quite an impact on us financially. We're looking at a hundred thousand plus in lost income and extra costs," farmer Malcolm Welsh said.

Federated Farmers said organisations like the Rural Support Trust Northland can now coordinate support and advisory services.

"Practically speaking an adverse event declaration like this is not about handouts," Federated Farmers Northland provincial president, Matt Long, said.

"While there are benefits called Rural Assistance Payments or RAP's I have to be brutally honest and say that very few farmers will qualify. 

"These are for absolute hardship and the last time there was drought here less than 16 farmers out of several thousand received them."

Dry conditions are expected to continue in the region for at least two weeks, and many dairy farmers have already scaled back operations to one milking a day.

Federated Farmers said it expects other regions to also be declared in drought soon.

Drought declared

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy declared the drought today after farmers, council members and rural support asked the Ministry to declare a "medium scale adverse weather event".

Guy said the declaration recognises the Northland region, classified as north of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, is now beyond a normal dry summer and into an extreme climatic event. 

"The declaration of a medium-scale event means that extra Government funding will now be available to coordinate support through local organisations like the Rural Support Trusts. In extreme cases there will also be Rural Assistance Payments available to farmers in severe hardship.
"This drought decision has been made after receiving advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries, including soil moisture data from NIWA, and in consultation with the local community."

The Ministry is also keeping a close eye on other regions in the North Island, in particular Waikato and Hawke's Bay.

Guy said farmers should contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard assistance is available from the Ministry of Social Development.

"Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries are all working to help farmers get through this tough period," said Guy.

The dry conditions have made the region an extreme fire risk with a large scrub fire burning through 90 hectares of land in Kaipara last week.

Meanwhile, a total ban on domestic sprinklers and irrigation systems and restrictions on outdoor water use for commercial properties has been introduced to Hamilton and Waikato District from today.

Hamilton City Council City Waters Manager Tim Harty said the city's water use had been climbing steadily over the past week, with 77 million litres used on Monday compared to an average usage this time of year of around 60 million litres.

The summer of 2007/08 was the last time Hamilton had a total sprinkler ban.