Drought-ravaged areas of New Zealand will receive almost $12.5 million in support from the Government as rural New Zealand continues to grapple with the economic impacts of the big dry.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled the spending package this afternoon.
She acknowledged the rural sector, particularly in the North Island, was "doing it tough" with significant and sustained droughts in many areas.
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The $12.4 million spending package includes:
• $10 million to respond to immediate needs such as delivering water for consumption, sanitation, wastewater systems, stock welfare and horticulture;
• $2 million to support farmers and growers following today's large-scale drought classification across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams; and
• $421,000 to extend the reach of Rural Assistance Payments – which can be used to buy water.
"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," Ardern said.
The package, according to Ardern, will focus on solving immediate needs which cannot be fixed through existing sources and suppliers.
It would also ensure adequate water supply to North Island communities.
Ardern said sustained rainfall would be needed to break the drought in the upper North Island.
No significant rainfall is forecast until May.
Meanwhile, Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the longer the extreme drought conditions continue, the greater the threat to water supplies that are already severely restricted in some places.
"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.
Today's spending announcement is in addition to some $2 million, from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) which has been allocated for temporary water supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe.
The Defence Force is already in the process of carrying out deployments to help with essential water resupply through tanker trucks and crew.