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Upper North Island dryness a concern

Upper North Island dryness a concern

Federated Farmers is increasingly anxious over soil moisture deficits in Waikato, south Auckland and the West Coast of Northland. In some areas, the effects are worse than last year’s record-breaking drought.

“We are keeping a very close eye on the next few weeks,” says James Houghton, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.

“We’re hoping to get some rain relief but the MetService’s Monthly Outlook doesn’t give me much hope.
“Farmers know summer means sunshine, heat and a lack of rain. We can cope with that, but what we can’t cope with is when autumn fails to deliver its essential dose of rain.

“While Canterbury and the Lower North Island are wet and windy it’s fairly dry where I am. In fact, the MetService is predicting that the first month of autumn will generally be drier than normal, especially for the north of the country.

“My heart hopes the weathermen have got it wrong though my brain tells me they are probably right,” Mr Houghton added.

Speaking on behalf of Northland farmers, Federated Farmers Northland provincial president, Roger Ludbrook, suggests whether a drought is declared or not, farmers can take actions that will help them.

“You don’t need an adverse event declaration before approaching Inland Revenue over things like income equalisation relief. It doesn’t excuse you, but they can show flexibility.

“Inland Revenue, on a case-by-case situation, will consider approaches from individual farmers who have been affected by adverse events without an event being formally declared by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

“For farmers, the main advantage of a declaration, if one does come, is practical and psychological.

“Psychologically there’s recognition you’re not on your own, but a declaration also means the Rural Support Trust can swing into gear with counselling and making available farm advisory services.

“At a regional and national policy level, Federated Farmers is pushing hard for regions to have water strategies because New Zealand doesn’t suffer from a water shortage issue, just a water storage one,” Mr Ludbrook added.

If a declaration is made it is not a path to public money, Federated Farmers stresses:

“In 2013, the worst drought in 70-years covered the South Island’s west coast and the entire North Island,” Mr Houghton continued.

“Yet even in those conditions only 146 applications for Rural Assistance Payments (RAP) were granted. Truth be known, a RAP is the unemployment benefit by another name, so you would have to lose almost everything to qualify.

“We shouldn’t be sitting back and waiting for the Government.

“Instead, talk to your neighbours about what you need then talk to us at Federated Farmers. Talk to your accountant and farm consultant too. Keep your bank up to speed and prioritise the welfare of your stock, your workers, your family and most of all, yourself.

“Give the Rural Support Trust a call if you need some extra support. There is no harm in raising the flag and saying you need help,” concluded Mr Houghton.


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