The Hawke's Bay Rural Advisory Group has set up a series of dedicated "satellite" teams as it helps deal with the vagaries of the drought amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

The eight teams have been set up with specific focus on water, feed, logistics, finance, welfare, animal health, Maori liaison and Wairoa.

A drought was declared across Hawke's Bay and other parts of the North Island on March 12 and apart from some rain at the end of March – over 100mm in some localised areas – there has been little respite.

Rainfall has been below average for five months in a row in most parts of the region, in particular, most of the area covered by the Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay District Councils and the Napier City Council, as well as further south into the Tararua district and Wairarapa.

Advisory group co-chairs Wade Nilsson and Lochie MacGillivray say the needs of the rural community are the group's utmost priority, and the teams are already operational to provide specialist support in their particular area.

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Made up of representatives from rural and primary sector agencies, the Rural Advisory Group is working closely with Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group and is surveying those particularly impacted by "unprecedented" drought conditions and who need "urgent" help.

MacGillivray said: "We are conducting surveys with people in the worst drought-affected areas as well as further afield and are working hard to find ways to support people."
Initial results show the main issues relate to feed and water shortages, soil and moisture deficits, TB movement control and delays in getting animals to the meat works.

"We are helping these people in partnership with other agencies," he said, but appreciating there are some with whom contact has not yet been made, and who are advised to contact an 0800 RURAL HELP number, or online visit www.rural-support.org.nz

Nilsson said the situation has been changing daily and urges farmers to check in on their neighbours, as much as possible, to see how they are and offer support if required.

"The rural community is in the middle of a severe drought, along with other significant pressures such as Covid-19," he said.

"The rural community knows how to rally together and support each other. We urge people to do just this and look after each other."

Farmers can also find out if they qualify for financial assistance from the recently established Farm Business Advice Support Fund.