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Cabinet confirms rural families support payments

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister of Social Development and Employment
Hon Damien O'Connor
Acting Minister of Agriculture

27 March 2008
Media statement

Cabinet confirms support payments for rural families

Cabinet has confirmed that special support payments are available to rural families in drought-stricken areas, Social Development and Employment Minister Ruth Dyson and Acting Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

Rural Assistance payments are to be available to eligible farmers in the regions of Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wanganui, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland whose income is affected by drought.

Cabinet also extended the availability of Rural Assistance payments to farmers affected by last year's drought on the East Coast of the North Island in the local authority territorial areas:
Carterton District Council;
Central Hawke's Bay District Council;
Gisborne District Council;
Hastings District Council;
Masterton District Council;
Napier District Council;
South Wairarapa District Council;
Tararua District Council; and
Wairoa District Council.

Damien O'Connor said that farmers were eligible for the payments, regardless of whether their local authority had officially declared a drought.

Ruth Dyson said the Rural Assistance payments were a special targeted payment to New Zealanders in need.

The payments were not taxable, and did not impact on eligibility for family assistance. They were designed to cover essential living costs only, and did not get included as income for farm accounts.

"Other financial assistance is available to farming families, including Special Needs Grants and Emergency Benefits."

The ministers said the extreme dry conditions around much of New Zealand were causing hardship for farming families and rural communities. They encouraged people to seek assistance.

"There are a range of measures, both through the income support system and the tax system, to help farmers through adverse weather conditions. This year's drought, and last year's drought on the East Coast of the North Island, will have long-term pain for farmers and their families. These things are there to help, and people should feel no shame about taking them up."

Rural Assistance payments are set at 75 per cent of the applicable rate of the unemployment benefit.

Farmers must meet an income test, a personal asset test on non-farm assets, and a cash-asset test. They must also be evaluating the viability of continuing to farm, or have made a decision to sell their property.

Unlike benefit payments, such as the unemployment benefit (which drought-affected farmers may also be eligible), farmers getting Rural Assistance payments can remain working on their farms and do not have to be available for work to qualify.


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