Last week Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor visited farms and farming leaders throughout the Waikato to garner the latest facts on the ground relating to the region's drought conditions.

The visits aligned with the Government announcing on Thursday its $12 million drought relief package.

On the same day the drought was declared a large-scale adverse event, declaring the entire North Island, some parts of the South Island and the Chatham Islands to be in drought.

From the package, $10m will be focused on water for consumption, sanitation, stock welfare, horticulture and waste water systems. The package also included $2m to support farmers and growers.

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O'Connor spoke to media at Owl Farm in Cambridge and said farmers he had spoken too are being resilient and are appreciative of the declaration and package that has been put in place.

From right, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, head of Rural Support Trust Neil Bateup and Labour list MP all visited Owl Farm to talk to farmers about the current drought situation.
From right, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, head of Rural Support Trust Neil Bateup and Labour list MP all visited Owl Farm to talk to farmers about the current drought situation.

"The $2 million won't cover all the costs that farmers are incurring but it will provide them with advice on how to get through this.

"Many just haven't been prepared for the long period of dry here so providing that one on one support for them is the most valuable thing we can do," says O'Connor.

The funding is set to help feed co-ordination, support farmers when they go into recovery mode, provide drought co-coordinators working within the regions and to support the Rural Support Trust.

Head of the Rural Support Trust, Neil Bateup, said particularly some young farmers have been faced with a big challenge because they have not been through such difficulty before.

He also said morale has started to drop in the past week.

"We appeal to anybody that's going through a tough time and doesn't quite know where to turn or who to contact, we'll put somebody alongside them and try to work them through the process," said Bateup.

"It's important that we keep supporting each other, that's really the key."

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O'Connor said in 2013 the industry was faced with a similar large scale adverse event but not to the same extent with getting feed from one region to support farmers in other regions being especially challenging because of this drought. He says farmers could be playing catch up for up to 18 months.

"It might rain tomorrow but we're still going to be facing months and months of pressure because of the deficits in moisture and the deficit in feed," says O'Connor.

Owl Farm's demonstrations manager Jo Sheridan talks about the droughts impact on the farm. Photo / Caitlan Johnston
Owl Farm's demonstrations manager Jo Sheridan talks about the droughts impact on the farm. Photo / Caitlan Johnston

Owl Farm is a joint venture demonstration dairy farm between St Peter's Cambridge and Lincoln University and its demonstration manager Jo Sheridan and its farm manager Tom Bradley spoke to the minister about how the drought is impacting them.

Jo says their biggest challenge is protecting regrowth to be able to feed their animals. She says they have gone into pasture recovery mode and are hoping they will get some rain soon.

They have had to bring in extra feed supplements and have put the animals on a long rotation.

"The reality is that from December to now we have had a severe lack of rainfall, each week we have had to revise our numbers and each week we want the rain to come," says Sheridan.

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Owl Farm is one of the more fortunate farms which have seen a bit of rainfall but Bateup said that rainfall and grass growth has been patchy across the region and majority have had to rely on grass supplement.

O'Connor added that despite some rainfall, grass growth is nowhere near the amount needed to support farms.

"We're trying to help out as best we can but in terms of the rural sector, most people are resilient and they're getting better at planning for these events but from time to time we need to step up and offer more support as we're doing today," says O'Connor.