Local farmers are still feeling the impact of last year's drought as claims of over $800,000 were made in the Thames area for a one-off grant which only had a total of $265,000 available.
The 2019/2020 summer season was considered one of the worst droughts in New Zealand history.
Soil Moisture Deficit, which is calculated on incoming daily rainfall (mm), outgoing daily potential evapotranspiration (PET, mm), and a fixed available water capacity, was at its highest recorded level since records began in 2007, according to Niwa.
It was the same story for the Waikato with Niwa's drought value and soil moisture deficit also at its highest levels since 2007. The same drought continues to cause problems for Auckland's water supply, with dams 20 per cent lower than usual for this time of year.
The Mayoral Drought Relief fund has been used to make the grass a little bit greener for the local farmers, with Hauraki District mayor Toby Adams saying the number of people that applied for the grant showed how bad the drought was.
"We had to prioritise the available funding of $265,000 to those most in need, according to the information provided on the application forms and the criteria provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] who put up most of the funding," Adams said.
Adam said MPI responded to a plea for help from local mayors back in May.
"The effects of the drought were bubbling away in the shadow of Covid-19 and hitting our farmers really hard in the pocket.
"The three mayors [Hauraki, Matamata-Piako, and Thames-Coromandel] local National MP Scott Simpson and Hauraki Māori Trust Board chairman David Taipiri wrote to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Conner and MPI got out the eftpos card straight away."
Overall, MPI allocated $500,000 to farmers in north Waikato and Northland, with $250,000 of that tagged for farmers in the Thames Valley area. Hauraki District Council added $10,000 to the local fund and Thames-Coromandel District Council contributed $5000.
A mayoral advisory fund committee chosen for their farming experience and local knowledge assessed the applications, with one application accepted per business.
"We're very grateful to MPI and to the Mayoral Advisory Fund Committee for generously giving up their time to ensure the fund was distributed as equitably as possible," Adam said.
"We hope this grant will go some small way towards helping our farmers recover from one of the worst droughts in recorded history. Many have started the new season well behind the eight ball and they're not out of the woods yet. We all need to continue to get in behind them and show them our support."
He urged all farmers to make use of the support networks that are available.
"Being involved in this process has really highlighted to me how many local organisations are out there offering all kinds of support to our farming communities. I'd like to acknowledge the great work they're doing."