Hardship assistance offer not taken up

Photo / Christine Cornege.
Photo / Christine Cornege.

No farmers have applied for hardship assistance after the Government cleared the way for the extra support by declaring five regions drought-affected.

A spokesman for Work and Income said no rural assistance payments had been made since drought had been declared. The payments are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available in extreme hardship.

Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay have been declared drought-affected.

Extra funding was granted by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy to Rural Support Trusts, allowing them to provide practical support to rural families, including counselling services and advice. Rural Support Trusts do not provide financial payments to farmers.

Mr Guy's office could not say how much money had been given to the trusts.

Farmers are also able to contact IRD if they need flexibility with making tax payments. In the 2010-11 drought, fewer than 100 farmers received rural assistance payments.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said he would not increase the amount of money available to farmers in the future.

"The actual cash support is actually very difficult to get, farmers need to be able to show extreme hardship, essentially having no money available for meeting household needs.

"There isn't any financial assistance available for their farm management decisions."

He said their main concern would be dealing with IRD.

Mr English said he didn't know how many farmers had taken up IRD's offer to be flexible with tax payments, but said hundreds would if rain didn't ease the situation.

Tararua, Wairarapa, Manawatu-Rangitikei and Taranaki are expected to be declared drought-affected shortly and a spokesman for Mr Guy said the minister was keeping a close eye on the South Island.

- APNZ

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