Drought in South Island enters second year

Widespread drought conditions in the South Island mean the medium-scale event classification will be extended until the end of June, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“Extra funding of up to $150,000 will go to local Rural Support Trusts with $40,000 of this going to the North Canterbury Trust,” says Mr Guy. 

Speaking with farmers at a sheep and beef farm in Weka Pass, Hurunui, Mr Guy acknowledged this is the third time the classification has been extended.

“Marlborough, Canterbury and parts of Otago were originally classified as a medium-scale event on 12 February 2015 and have had very little rainfall for more than a year now.

“Recent rain has brought some relief and a great morale boost. After more than a year of drought, any rain is welcome, and in some areas it has triggered small amounts of growth.

“However what these farms really need is good consistent follow-up rain to bring soil moisture levels closer to normal, as it has been dry for so long.

“Farmers in these regions are used to drought and have been well prepared to deal with this summer’s additional El Niño effect. Early destocking means that there are fewer animals to feed and farmers have good plans in place to ride out the tough season, keeping their remaining animals in good condition.”

“Once again it reinforces the importance of irrigation and water storage projects. It’s pleasing to see the Hurunui Water Project can now begin planning and construction following a High Court ruling last month. This project has received around $2 million in Government funding so far.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has been working closely with sector organisations and Rural Support Trusts (RSTs) to monitor the situation and coordinate support.

RSTs have been organising support and community events, professional meetings, and one-on-one mentoring. They have also been helping with guidance for Rural Assistance Payments and other relief that may be available in some cases.

People are encouraged to call their local RST on 0800 787 254, and Federated Farmers is also operating their drought feedline on 0800 376 844.

“Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but they need to know there is support. As well as Rural Support Trusts, Inland Revenue can offer flexibility with tax obligations and there are options such as Rural Assistance Payments for those facing extreme hardship.”

At Fieldays last year the Government announced a one-off $500,000 funding boost for rural mental health. In collaboration with Dairy NZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, up to 100 support people are being trained to work for Rural Support Trusts and will be able to recognise and refer those who need support.

Parliament