Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a further $3 million in relief measures for drought-hit Northland during a flying visit to Kaitaia.
The new funding is part of a $10m package aimed at drought zones across the North Island, all of which was yesterday declared as being in the grip of a ''large-scale adverse event''. Northland's drought was declared a month earlier. Ardern arrived on an Air Force plane about 1.30pm yesterday for a whistle-stop tour of the Far North's big dry.
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Accompanied by MPs, Mayor John Carter, Far North District Council and Civil Defence officials, she visited a dairy farm at Awanui, a newly built pumping station and pipeline at Bonnetts Rd in Kaitaia, and the council's water treatment plant at Okahu Rd.
The new pipeline will connect a bore on farmland owned by Te Hiku iwi Te Rarawa and Ngai Takoto to Kaitaia's treatment plant, a distance of about 4km.
The funding package also includes $421,000 to extend Rural Assistance Payments for struggling farmers and $2m to support the rural sector across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams.
The new money comes on top of the $2m granted by the Provincial Growth Fund to set up emergency water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.
Dairy farmer Will Tye told Ardern the season had been tough, but farmers were "a resilient bunch".
He was down about 10,000kg in milk solids but his biggest problem was having to buy in extra feed.
He said the drought was comparable to one he'd experienced on the Hauraki Plains in 2008 but long-time locals told him it was the worst they had seen.
''There's a few things coming at dairy farmers at the moment, and drought adds to the stress ... we could do with a few more wins.''
Later, during a visit to Kaitaia's treatment plant, Ardern wouldn't be drawn on whether successive councils had dropped the ball on town water supplies.
The drought came on the back of several dry years in Northland, compounding current problems, she said.
In such extreme conditions it was not unreasonable for central government to step in and support the work of councils.
''Everyone accepts we are in an environment now where we are experiencing more extreme weather events and we have to plan for longer, drier summers and less rain in winter. This is not going to be an isolated event.''
Ardern praised Northlanders' "amazing efforts" to reduce water use but warned that reductions would have to continue even if rain fell in coming days.
It would take a lot of sustained rain to put Northland back into a good position, she said.
Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the extra $3m was targeted primarily for water supplies and treatment, as well as support for the rural sector.
He would work closely with councils to make sure the money went exactly where it was needed.
"We hope this package not only relieves but also allows us to look forward to the future to see how we might mitigate these factors in the future," Henare said.
Carter thanked the MPs for their support, saying the teamwork between central and local government, iwi and the community in coming up with solutions had made him proud.
'"The community has stepped up. While there was some anxiety and anger two or three weeks ago, that is to a large extent gone and people are now working positively together."
Meanwhile, two emergency pipelines under construction in Kaitaia could be supplying water as soon as this Sunday.
One will connect a council-owned bore at the Sweetwater aquifer with a water tanker filling station on Bird Rd, Awanui.
The other will hook into an irrigation system on iwi-owned Sweetwater Farms, which carries the water 5km to Bonnetts Rd. The new pipe will carry the water another 4km directly to Kaitaia's treatment plant.
Level 4 restrictions, the toughest possible, are currently in place on town water supplies in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Paihia-Waitangi-Ōpua, Kawakawa-Moerewa, Rawene-Ōmanaia, and all of the Kaipara. Level 4 restrictions have also been imposed on bore water, streams and lakes in 23 Northland coastal communities.