Drought-stricken farmers in Southland and parts of Otago are the latest to be offered special relief payments.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said today that the Government's Rural Assistance Payments would be extended to the districts of Southland, Invercargill, Gore, Clutha, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.

The payments, available from Monday to January 21 next year, help farmers meet essential living expenses and have already been offered to farmers in the Lower North Island and the West Coast this season.

Sepuloni said that while some rain had fallen on many regions, Southland and Otago remained extremely dry, with the normally hottest and driest two months to come.


It wasn't just a lack of rainfall but sweltering heat that was continuing to take a toll on farmers' crops and their stock.

"The impact of drought on rural communities can be devastating, not only on businesses, but on people's emotional resilience," Sepuloni said.

"Many farmers in these regions haven't experienced drought of this magnitude before. We want them to know that additional support is available as they not only cope with the extreme weather, but they begin the road to recovery when the drought breaks."

Sepuloni urged farmers and growers in the affected areas to contact Work and Income to see what they might be eligible for.

"As farmers focus on working to feed stock until spring, we want them to know that there is support available to them. I urge those suffering hardship to talk to us," she said.

The drought classification has also triggered other government support with $130,000 going to Otago and Southland rural support trusts.

Tax relief measures were also being extended to drought affected farmers.