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Farmers need to be prepared if drought takes hold

Media Release
15 January 2010

Farmers need to be prepared if drought takes hold

While Northland, along with parts of central Otago, Canterbury, Gisborne and inland Bay of Plenty, are facing extreme dry conditions, Federated Farmers is hopeful drought may still be averted.

“We’re not at panic stations yet but if conditions continue to deteriorate, drought is likely to be declared in Northland,” says David Rose, Federated Farmers adverse events spokesperson.

“So it is essential that farmers, particularly those in the far north, have a plan in place to deal with a drought situation if it comes to that. Recent farmer meetings in Northland have already helped farmers with this planning.

“North of Whangarei and around central Otago, farmers have been managing the dry conditions by de-stocking and shifting animals to greener pasture as grass levels deteriorate.

“Yet Northland, unlike other areas, has not faced extreme dry conditions for many years so some farmers do not have the same valuable experience in dealing with drought that farmers in other parts of the country have. This has impacted on some Northland farmers drought planning.

“As the current situation develops, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will work to minimise the impact on farms and the wider community. Federated Farmers will be part of these efforts.

“Rural support trusts across the country are already gearing up to offer the farming community help with business options and stress management. The Northland Rural Support Trust, for example, is assisting farmers with practical measures such as stock reduction and supplementary feeding.

“Northland has so far received its lowest spring rainfall since records began, with eastern parts of the region, north of Waipu, worst affected. Western parts of Northland have received more rain, but are quickly drying out as well.

“The 2007/08 El Nino influenced drought cost New Zealand about $2.8 billion. Another large scale drought would have a massive impact on farm businesses and the New Zealand economy in general.

“Without water there is no farming and without farming there is no economy. Yet, ironically, it is not that New Zealand lacks for rainfall or water – we just lack the means to store it. The most effective way to prevent drought is to develop water storage infrastructure.

“New Zealand is currently spending just $700,000 per annum on water storage via the Community Irrigation Fund. The Federation is working hard to break down the financial and regulatory restrictions that prevent many rural communities from developing their own water storage facilities,” Mr Rose concluded.

To contact a rural support organisation in your area, please click here.

ENDS

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