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Collaboration critical during drought in Otago

Despite the recent wet weather, it is unlikely the drought conditions in Otago will ease. As a proactive measure the Otago Regional Council will be coordinating regular inter-agency meetings over the coming months.

“In times of difficulties like drought, it is important that agencies are consistent and joined up in their communication, these meetings will ensure advice to communities is appropriate and accurate,” said Chief Executive Sarah Gardner.

“We have been incredibly impressed with the proactive commitment being made to save water and change water use habits over this time. We encourage others to take the lead and make sure they moderate their own personal water use and prioritise water saving in their homes and businesses,” she said.

“With that said, the Otago community should be praised for their efforts and vigilance so far in protecting people, animals and plants, and managing their use of land and water during this drought” said Mrs Gardner on behalf of ORC Councillors and staff.

“We’re also pleased to see the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O’Connor acknowledge the seriousness of the drought in Otago. Enabling access to support for our rural community is critical at this time,” she said.

“Our thoughts go to the farming community, who are finding it stressful with stock water supplies drying up and stock suffering in the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Otago,” Mrs Gardner said.

Federated Farmers Provincial President Phill Hunt underlines the concerns farmers have around access to stock water supplies.

“We are facing what many older farmers are describing as the worst dry spell they have seen in decades,” he said.

“Farmers are understandably concerned about the wellbeing of their stock and are destocking where needed. Having sufficient access to stock drinking water is critical for stock wellbeing.

For many farmers, the stock drinking water supplies we rely on in an average year aren’t available or aren’t sufficient this year.”

“Farmers need to plan accordingly. That means looking at stocking rates and preparing to adapt these to the conditions, and having a plan A, B and C in place rather than hoping for rain.”

“It also means being aware of our environmental responsibilities while we’re trying to access additional stock water supplies,” he said.

Director of Environmental Monitoring and Operations Scott MacLean reminds the community that Otago’s Water Plan allows stock to access water in rivers and lakes for drinking.

“So long as they don’t cause pugging and erosion of the bed and banks, stock are allowed to access waterways for drinking. Farmers should view the permitted activity conditions in the Water Plan before doing so,” Mr MacLean said.

ORC acknowledges the effective communication and information sharing already occurring between rural support agencies.

The first inter-agency meeting will be hosted in Alexandra on February 13th.

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