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Drought Still Biting Parts Of The Waikato

The Waikato region has had a series of good rainfall events over the past month, but most of these events largely missed Hauraki, Coromandel and South Auckland.

Pasture covers are very low for many farmers in these districts which presents a serious situation heading into winter, the Waikato Primary Industries Adverse Event Cluster heard this week.

The cluster includes Waikato Rural Support Trust, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb NZ, the forestry sector and others. It has met weekly over summer on the drought, and is actively engaged with the COVID-19 response with CDEM and the Waikato District Health Board.

“It is a serious situation in Hauraki and Coromandel districts,” said Kevin Robinson, president of Hauraki-Coromandel Federated Farmers. “The drought is compounded by challenges with pests like crickets and slugs, and we have just not been getting the rainfall we need.”

Farmers have fed a lot of supplementary feed over summer and many have eaten into, or even used their entire winter reserves. Fortunately, pasture growth has generally been good for the rest of the region enabling good recovery prior to winter for most, but there will be challenges and risks looking out to spring, said Neil Bateup, Waikato Rural Support Trust chairman.

“The feed situation remains tight for everyone. It is imperative everyone has a plan, and continues to review their plan. Seek advice from your neighbour, farm advisor, accountant and bank,” Mr Bateup said.

The Rural Support Trust has hosted a series of webinars for the first time care of the lockdown, ranging from 20 to 100 participants. DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ, amongst others, have been running plenty of online sessions as well.

A weekly drought recovery newsletter has been published by the Waikato Rural Support Trust for the last 10 weeks, and 83,000 copies are being dropped into all rural letterboxes in Waikato and South Auckland.

“The newsletter is one of our key communication channels to farmers with the latest information on support and events, and you can find them on Facebook and our website,” said Wanda Leadbeater, coordinator of Waikato Rural Support Trust.

Mr Bateup’s advice is: “We will eventually come through the other side of the drought with the support of each other, our neighbours, and our communities. Our farmers and growers are going to be crucial to New Zealand’s recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. Please reach out for advice and support where you need.”

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