A state of drought has been officially declared in the Bay of Plenty today bringing some much needed relief to local farmers.
Drought has also been declared in the Auckland region, Waikato, and Hawkes Bay.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced the medium-scale drought events today, saying it recognised that farmers across the North Island were facing extremely difficult conditions.
The area covered by drought includes the Auckland area south of the Harbour Bridge and all of the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay regions, including Coromandel and Taupo.
The Auckland area north of the Harbour Bridge was covered by the declaration of a medium-level drought in Northland last week.
Mr Guy said the entire North Island was dry and he was also keeping a close eye on other parts of the East Coast, as well as Wairarapa, Manawatu and Taranaki.
He said extra Government funding would now be available to Rural Support Trusts in the regions where drought was declared today.
"These organisations work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance in what is a very tough time," he said.
"I realise these can be stressful times for rural families, and they need to know who to turn to for support."
Mr Guy said rural assistance payments would also be available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development. "These are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship."
The drought declarations come after consultation with the communities affected, and an assessment from the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Mr Guy said farmers badly need some rainfall during March and April to help prepare for the winter and set up for next spring.
"It's important to note that support is available from Government agencies in all regions, even without a drought declaration.
"Farmers should contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income."
Mr Guy said it was great to see banks were offering flexible finance options for farmers.
"The conditions are also creating challenges for lifestyle block owners, and we urge them to take action early," he said.
MPI North Island resource policy manager Stuart Anderson this morning said the ministry had been monitoring the situation closely and talking with stakeholders across the affected regions.
"As the dry weather has progressed, increasingly large parts of the North Island are either getting quite close to quite significant drought conditions or are at that stage already," he told Radio New Zealand.
Mr Anderson said March could be quite a dry month, but there was hopefully some rain on the horizon for large parts of the North Island around the end of next week.
"But the certainty around that is not clear yet at this stage. But the remainder of March could again return to the pattern we've seen of large highs that don't bring much rain at all."
Mr Anderson said one of the biggest problems of multiple dry regions was that farmers faced limited alternative measures, including sourcing feed from other regions or moving stock.
"You get to the point where farmers across large part of the North Island in this case are in a similar situation and can't really help each other."
Hawkes Bay's drought committee was yesterday told the region was enduring its driest six-month period in 50 years.
Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson, himself a farmer, said while the situation had been monitored for some weeks, it was in the last fortnight that the dry situation had started to bite.
"There is no sign of rain relief in the near future," he said, acknowledging farmers had not yet seen the worst and most were coping.