The Government has unlocked a further $2 million to ease the load on drought-stricken farmers and growers.

Drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams were yesterday classified as a large-scale adverse event by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, freeing up more funds for those affected.

"The intensity of the drought and its spread across multiple regions has affected many people and their livelihoods," he said.

The announcement follows urging from Hawke's Bay farmers and leaders as parts of the region experienced the driest period on record.


For some parts of Hawke's Bay, the four months between November and February have been the driest in 50 years, with some farms close to running out of water.

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Included in the package are drought co-ordinators and additional co-ordinators, a feed working group, animal welfare information and expertise and professional advice for recovery.

Expanded psychosocial support, including $90,000 for Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa is also available.

"This new funding allows us to boost co-ordination efforts and activate some additional recovery measures, including for animal welfare and wider rural communities, while also ensuring there is funding to respond to future adverse events," said O'Connor.

The funding is available until June 2021.

Parched hills just outside Whanganui. Photo / Bevan Conley
Parched hills just outside Whanganui. Photo / Bevan Conley

Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay regions are now covered, with $90,000 in funding available for local Rural Support Trusts to assist primary sector communities, provide farm management advice and animal welfare support.

"Farmers and growers have shown that they are able to roll with the punches and most have been well-prepared for these types of events, but as the weeks go by without significant rain in many parts of the country, there is a cumulative impact," O'Connor said.


"It's getting very hard for people to keep planning for, and it puts pressure on rural communities."

The classification covers the entire North Island along with the top of the South Island (Tasman, Marlborough, Kaikoura), North Canterbury and the Chatham Islands.

"Funding for psychosocial support in affected regions will also be boosted, and we'll be working closely with farmers to help ensure the welfare of animals in their care."

Smatterings of rain across parts of the North Island of late haven't been enough to ease the pressure of water shortages and low feed availability, O'Connor said.

"It will take more than a few sprinklings of rain to get out of drought."

The last large-scale adverse event classification for drought was in 2013.

More than $300,000 has been made available to drought-stricken regions by the Government.

These include an $80,000 support in Northland and North Auckland package in February, and the same amount unlocked for Waikato and South Auckland regions a few weeks later.

On Monday, conditions in Gisborne, Manawatū, Rangitikei, and Tararua districts were classified as a medium-scale adverse event, meaning a further $150,000 was available to the region.

Additionally the Government has committed $2 million to set up temporary water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

The Defence Force has also pitched in as the situation worsens, delivering water to towns in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

"With several requests for regional declarations of drought received in the past few weeks, it's become clear that many farmers and growers in the North Island and parts of the South Island are facing very difficult dry conditions," O'Connor said.

He said tailored packages would be developed to suit each region's needs.

Additional funding will be available for more drought co-ordinators if needed for those already in a medium scale event, along with access to recovery advice for affected primary sector businesses.