Farmers welcome drought decision

The last official droughts in the region were declared in January and December 2010. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The last official droughts in the region were declared in January and December 2010. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The official declaration of a state of drought in Northland has been welcomed by farmers, who say it will bring much-needed support to those affected.

A state of drought in Northland was officially announced by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy yesterday (Wed).

"This is recognition that we are now beyond what is a normal dry summer, and into an extreme climatic event. The entire North Island is extremely dry, but Northland is one of the worst-hit areas," he said.

Declarations of drought for other areas are likely to follow, said Federated Farmers.

Northland provincial president Matt Long said yesterday's declaration would trigger support from organisations like the Rural Support Trust Northland and flexibility from Inland Revenue.

"As this is a highly stressful time for farmers and their families, access to counselling services is invaluable.

"It is not about being excused obligations but the ability to set up individual plans with it; plans that need to be organised through a farmer's agent or accountant," he said.

"Federated Farmers said there was also no justification for the high New Zealand dollar given the widespread dry conditions, which had significantly affected dairy production in some areas.

Northland's February milk production is about 20 per cent down compared to last year, and in Waikato it is about 15 percent down.

"When you put this effect on dairy together with the way meat and fibre farmers have rapidly destocked over summer, New Zealand's two leading exports are under the gun,'' said Federated Farmers' President Bruce Wills.

"When you put all of this together the economic fundamentals provide no justification for the substantially overvalued Kiwi dollar. Any short-term uplift in commodity prices will likely reflect supply concerns, and while helpful, it won't provide a cash boon for farmers or the economy."

Meanwhile, Aucklanders are being urged not to panic about water shortages following the declaration of a state of drought in Northland yesterday.

The announcement means extra government funding will be available for farmers in severe hardship, and further declarations of drought in other areas are expected to follow.

Auckland Council is monitoring the situation with neighbouring regional councils, and will update residents on any changes if the need arises, Civil Defence Emergency Management manager Clive Manley said.

He urged Aucklanders to not panic or rush out to buy bottled water.

"I would like to make it clear that Aucklanders in suburban areas on a public water supply do not need to be worried about water shortage. The focus here is only on the agricultural community," he said.

Farmers in the area north of the Auckland Harbour Bridge requiring assistance can contact government agencies such as the IRD and the Ministry of Social Development.

- APNZ

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