Hastings District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council have agreed to contribute $200,000 to the Mayoral Drought Relief Fund to ease some of the stress and hardship being felt by Hawke's Bay farmers.
It means the fund now sits at $1 million after $500,000 pledged to the fund by the Government this week along with, $50,000 from Central Hawke's Bay District Council and another $50,000 from consumer-owned electricity lines company Centralines.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the council's contribution towards the fund will help ease some of the hardship being felt by the farming community.
"The Covid-19 lockdown has added to the daily strain and isolation felt by our farmers as they struggle to survive the drought," Hazlehurst said.
"Pastoral farming is one of the biggest contributors to our economy – bringing in $500m, not including the positive flow-on effects to other industries including agricultural support services, transport, utilities and retail so it's going to take a long time for them to recover.
"We need to get behind our farmers and support them as they face further challenges in coming months, and we will be talking to the wider community about their support to see if we can build the drought relief fund up to $2m."
The fund will pay for feed to be shipped from the South Island and the Rural Advisory Group and Rural Support Trust will work closely with feed co-ordinators to ensure feed gets to the farms where it is most needed.
The Hastings Rural Community Board recommended council contribute to the fund.
Board chair Nick Dawson said this year's drought in Hawke's Bay was unprecedented, not only in its severity but also the complications and isolation Covid-19 had created for farmers.
"We are seeing immense pressure on our rural community with little or no stock feed, dams drying out and no substantial rain forecast," Dawson said.
"This has become an emergency event and the regional fund will be set up to source, transport and allocate stock feed where required.
"Hawke's Bay relies on its rural sectors' prosperity and now more than ever primary producers are called upon for export dollars. It will be comforting for the rural community to know we are pulling together and our resilience will come through again."
Farmer and former Hastings Rural Community Board chairman Peter Kay said that while the Covid-19 lockdown hadn't helped, the situation was all about the drought for farmers.
Kay said initiatives such as the Mayoral Drought Relief Fund and rural support groups were invaluable.
"This is not only from a monetary and feed source point of view, but mostly as a morale booster for not just the farmers but also their wives and partners who have to bear the brunt of these effects on a domestic level," he said.
"They need recognition for what they are doing as well."