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Dry conditions in Northland and Waikato remain a big concern

Hon Nathan Guy
Minister for Primary Industries

26 March 2014

Dry conditions in Northland and Waikato remain a big concern

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says dry conditions in parts of Waikato and Northland remain a serious concern.

“Local authorities in Northland have announced the western parts of their region are in drought. This reflects the tough few months they’ve had as pasture has browned off.

“Cyclone Lusi has helped green tinges appear in some places, but the rainfall was erratic and insufficient. Western Northland and large parts of the Waikato remain very dry.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries is keeping a close eye on conditions here and elsewhere. I’ve seen for myself how dry things are on two trips to the Waikato in the last two weeks.

“At this stage the conditions don’t meet the criteria for the government to declare a medium scale adverse event. This is because the drought conditions are localised, and we haven't had a formal request to make such a declaration. A range of support is currently available to farmers and most are managing to cope.

“I’ve been talking regularly to the Rural Support Trusts and local farmers who are hoping for rain soon. The advantage for Northland is dry farms respond quickly to rain, because they generally have good soil warmth through the autumn and early winter.

“I’m encouraging farmers to seek professional advice from Rural Support Trusts, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ who can provide information about managing dry conditions. IRD can also provide tax flexibility on a case by case basis.

“Banks also play a key role when things get tough on farms, and I’m pleased they are encouraging farmers to contact them and discuss their situation if facing difficulties.

“Farmers don’t want handouts, but they want to know the Government understands the situation they are facing.

“Farmers have shown incredible resilience to adverse events before, and we will get through this tough period,” says Mr Guy.

Further information

What is a localised adverse event?
MPI assesses the scale of adverse events that impact the primary industries as being Localised, Medium, or Large scale. Medium and large scale adverse events will usually trigger additional government assistance, which recognises that the event is at a scale that is beyond the capacity of the community to reasonably cope on their own.

A localised adverse event recognises that there is a climatic or natural disaster event that is occurring in the district and is impacting farmers and other primary producers. However, since it is localised, there will usually be no official government declaration or recovery assistance package announced.

An adverse event declaration is about the impacts of the event, not the event itself (i.e. it is not an official drought declaration, but rather that there is a drought that has reached the point that it is impacting on primary producers).

Who can declare a localised adverse event?
Announcements around localised scale adverse events can be made by local authorities, working together with sector bodies and other associated parties (such as Rural Support Trusts). There is no legislation to guide a local adverse event declaration and no formal process. It is rather an acknowledgement from local authorities and sector bodies (e.g Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ) that an adverse event is occurring and impacting a part of the rural community. This is an opportunity to provide important information to farmers around options to manage through and recover from the event, and to direct them towards assistance.

How is a localised adverse event declared?
The easiest way to announce a localised adverse event is through relevant councils, in conjunction with sector bodies and the local Rural Support Trust. Together, the situation can be assessed and a formal statement made that the authorities consider there is a local adverse event. A joint press release can outline this, and provide details of how primary producers can access assistance and further information. The term ‘localised’ is simply government’s assessment against the criteria in the Primary Sector Recovery Policy. This term does not need to be officially used by local authorities in making announcements about the event.

What assistance is available from Government during a localised adverse event?
During a localised adverse event the following assistance measures are available from Government:

Business assistance
Income Equalisation SchemeEnables, by use of a Commissioner’s discretion, taxpayers to make late deposits and/or early withdrawals from the income equalisation scheme. The exercise of the discretion is event specific.Inland Revenue Department
Additional flexible tax provisionsDepending on the circumstances IRD can consider late payment and late filing of tax without penalty and has hardship rules which can help as wellInland Revenue Department
Individual and family support
Seasonal Work AssistanceFinancial assistance for horticulture workers who are unable to work (and lose income), due to poor weather conditions. Income and asset tests apply. This measure is not available in a biosecurity incursion.Ministry for Social Development
Special Needs Grants, Recoverable Assistance ProgrammeThese payments are for one-off essential and immediate needs e.g. food and depend on a person’s individual circumstances. Income and asset tests apply.Ministry for Social Development

ENDS

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