Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced drought relief measures totalling $10 million during a visit to Kaitaia this afternoon.

Around $3 million of the funding will be spent in Northland.

The new measures are aimed at drought-hit communities right across the North Island, all of which was this morning declared as being in the grip of a ''large scale adverse event'' by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

The Northland drought was officially declared on February 12.


Drought looms in Far North
Far North drought costs expected to rise
Drought declared in Northland- at last- and 80k in government assistance
Water restrictions Far North-wide as drought looms

Last week's rain made little impression on Northland pastures. Photo / John Stone
Last week's rain made little impression on Northland pastures. Photo / John Stone

Ardern arrived at Kaitaia airport about 1.15pm for a whistle-stop tour of the Far North's big dry.

Accompanied by MPs, Far North District Council and Civil Defence officials, the Prime Minister visited a dairy farm at Awanui, emergency water tanks at Te Ahu, and a council pumping station at Bonnett Rd in Kaitaia.

They then proceeded to a council water treatment plant on Okahu Rd west of town.
A pipeline is currently being built from a bore on farmland owned by Te Hiku iwi Te Rarawa and Ngāi Takoto to the Okahu Rd plant.

Ardern said the rural sector across the North Island was currently ''doing it tough''.

''Water is running low across the board – for drinking supplies, the primary sector and firefighting storage – and we will help our communities to get through it," she said.

The funding package includes:

■ $10m to respond to immediate needs such as delivering water for consumption, sanitation, wastewater systems, stock welfare and horticulture.
■ $421,000 to extend Rural Assistance Payments, which can be used to buy water.
■ $2m to support farmers and growers across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams.


The government had previously given $2m from the Provincial Growth Fund to set up temporary water supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe.

Two emergency supplies in Kaitaia are thought to be days away from completion. A temporary pipeline and pumps from iwi-owned Lake Ōmāpere to Wairoro Stream, which provides Kaikohe's water supply, is awaiting district health board sign-off.

While parts of Northland have had rain in the past week it was not enough to break the drought or end the total fire ban.

Rain on the scale required is not forecast until May.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare, who hails from the Mid North and is also visiting Kaitaia today, said the longer extreme drought conditions continued, the greater the threat to water supplies.

"Northland is particularly vulnerable with severe water restrictions already in place, a high number of people on water tanks, and significant areas of deprivation. We must act now to have the systems and support in place to assist communities already stressed by drought conditions and the associated water shortages,'' he said.

Level 4 restrictions, which allow water to be used for essential purposes only, are currently in place in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Paihia-Waitangi-Ōpua, Kawakawa-Moerewa, Rawene-Omanaia, and all of the Kaipara.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said providing water for human consumption and sanitation was the highest priority.

"I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of councils to support their communities to date. With this initiative we envisage working with local councils and suppliers in Northland and other affected areas to deliver targeted solutions as required.

"While the funding announced today is intended to address immediate water-supply issues, it also provides a timely opportunity to advance our conversations with councils about developing sustainable, resilient water service delivery models,'' Mahuta said.