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More aid for drought-stricken farmers

More aid for drought-stricken farmers

The Government has approved further aid to farmers hit by drought in the lower North Island, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton and Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey said Cabinet had approved the provision of Rural Assistance Special Needs Grants to farmers in the Taranaki Region, Upper Hutt City and the Wanganui, Rangitikei, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Tararua, Kapiti Coast, Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa districts. These grants will be available from Work and Income from 19 May 2003 until the end of August.

Changes have also been made to the eligibility conditions for Rural Assistance Special Needs Grants. From today, people eligible for grants will be able to earn up to $80 (before tax) of off-farm income a week before their rural assistance grant begins to abate. This recognises that the current abatement provisions (which reduce the grants dollar for dollar from the first dollar of income) may result in some families who have a small amount of off-farm income, continuing to experience financial hardship.

Federated Farmers has also asked for a further $3000 to extend to affected farmers in Wellington and the Wairarapa the work of a rural co-ordinator. This person will assist farmers in handling the effects of the drought and provide support through difficult times.

This brings the total Government contribution up to $11,000 for drought-affected farmers in the lower North Island.

Mr Sutton said rural communities and the primary production sector were important to New Zealand and the Government recognised this, by providing funding at times of natural disasters and adverse climatic conditions.

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