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Government to end drought assistance

22 October 2008 Media Statement

Government to end drought assistance

The Government's special drought recovery measures will finish on 31 December this year, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Jim Anderton said that while the drought has been over for a while, the follow-on effects from the drought such as feed shortages, low pasture cover, poor animal health and financial issues carried on through winter and into the spring.

"The special recovery measures were kept open to provide assistance to those who still required it."

With improving stock conditions, pasture covers and good seasonal rainfall this spring, the National Drought Committee has decided that conditions showed sufficient recovery to cease the special measures.

Jim Anderton said the return to more normal conditions meant that special recovery measures provided by the Government such as funding to Rural Support Trusts and Industry bodies, and Rural Assistance Payments, will finish at the end of this year.

New applications for Rural Assistance Payments will not be accepted after the end of the year, but those already on the scheme will continue to receive payments through to the end of March next year.

Other standard welfare measures such as Working for Families tax credits, Special Needs Grants and Inland Revenue Tax measures will continue to be open with late deposits into the Income Equalisation Scheme for the 2008 income year allowed up to 30 April 2009.

Jim Anderton said that Rural Support Trusts would continue to be active in all drought-affected regions.

"In some ways, the real cost of this drought won't be fully known for another two years- that is, in terms of loss of livestock, decrease in production and cost of recovery.

"We encourage those who may require assistance to visit their local Rural Support Trust to find out what is available to them- before the end of this year and also after the special recovery measures cease."

Between February and July this year, New Zealand was affected by the worst drought in current farmer's memory. The severe nationwide drought resulted in farms in many regions facing feed shortages, low pasture covers, poor animal health, and financial issues.

Rural Assistance Payments are a Special Needs Grant activated by the Government for medium and large scale adverse events. Last month, it increased from 75% of the applicable Unemployment Benefit to 100%. Those who intend to apply must do so before the end of the year. Information and application forms can be obtained through the local Rural Support Trust or visiting www.workandincome.govt.nz or calling 0800 559 009.

The National Drought Committee is made up of government agencies, non-government and corporate bodies that, for the first time, co-ordinated the drought status reports and recovery measures at a national level. Based on the experience gained this year and the resulting improved understanding and coordination of information supplied by this wide range of organisations it has been decided the Committee will be reconstituted next year as the National Adverse Events Committee.


ENDS

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