Government issues warning to drought-ravaged farmers

By Kate Shuttleworth, Rebecca Quilliam

Farmers should know in a few days if Tropical Cyclone Sandra, forming off the coast of Australia, will bring some vital rain to parched New Zealand farmland, forecasters say.

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the cyclone formed last week over the warm waters of the Coral Sea and was tracking towards New Caledonia.

"It is still too early to tell whether Sandra will have any impact on us here in New Zealand, but we are closely monitoring the situation and expect to get a clearer picture of the cyclone's path around the middle of the week.''

WeatherWatch.co.nz analyst Philip Duncan said the cyclone would have a "battle'' against the anticyclone that was stalled over the country.

"At some point one of these systems are going to win. Will it be a rain-bearing system with northern origins that'll swoop down over us to provide rain relief or will the anticyclone refuse to give an inch and keep drying out our nation?''

Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay have been declared drought affected and farmers from Manawatu-Rangitikei, Wairarapa and Taranaki hope to follow suit so they can access government benefits.

But farmers have been warned they will not get the same level of benefits in the future if droughts become more common.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English told TVNZ's Breakfast show said while the Government was currently providing hardship assistance to families, farmers would have to adapt to the increasing risk of drought.

"We've got research in place for instance to find more drought resistant grasses and farmers have for years been adapting their management practices.''

Mr English denied the Government was giving assistance to failing businesses in a way it did not do for other industries.

"I think we've got the balance about right - it's not supporting the business in the sense of paying their bills for them, it's just dealing with those cases involving extreme hardship.

- APNZ

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