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Agriculture Minister Extends Drought Classifications For Primary Sector

Hon Damien O’Connor

Minister of Agriculture

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has today classified the drought conditions in the Gisborne, Manawatu, Rangitikei, and Tararua districts as a medium-scale adverse event.

The classification, which follows previous announcements in Northland, Auckland and Waikato, unlocks Government recovery assistance measures for farmers and growers.

“Many parts of the country are doing it tough due to a substantial lack of rain,” O'Connor said. “This classification means extra funding of $150,000 will now be available to coordinate support through local organisations like the Rural Support Trusts.”

In extreme cases, Rural Assistance Payments will be made available to farmers in severe hardship, he said.

“It's important to recognise that while farmers and growers in these parts of the country have experienced dry conditions before, the current situation is only getting more difficult.”

In the Tararua district, the extremely dry summer has affected river levels and particularly hit some areas near the Ruahine ranges that normally receive better summer rainfall. Stock water supplies as well as domestic and municipal water supplies have come under extreme pressure.

O’Connor added, “In the Gisborne district, Ngatapa, Rere and north of Tolaga Bay have received little rain with dams dry, feed availability low and farmers facing long delays in getting stock to the works.

"Farmers have been actively managing to meet the feed requirements of their stock and dairy herds are being milked less frequently and some are being dried off early.

“I’m continuing to keep an eye on several other regions, where extra help may also be needed," he said.

The $150,000 will bolster recovery activities in affected rural areas including:

· local groups such as the Rural Support Trusts and industry organisations running information sessions and other events to help support farmers and growers;

· one-to-one and group pastoral care and referrals from the Rural Support Trust; and

· coordination of help, resources and information for recovery.

Work and Income and Inland Revenue also have some recovery measures to help rural people get through drought and back to farming as usual when the weather allows.

"I encourage farmers to seek professional advice from Rural Support Trusts, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ who can provide information about managing dry conditions," O’Connor said.

"They can also contact their accountants or banks if they need help or flexibility with making payments."


Note to Editors

Criteria for classifying a medium-scale adverse event

There are three levels of ‘adverse events’ – localised, medium and large. These can cover events like drought, floods, fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The criteria for assessing the scale of an adverse event are:

· options available for the community to prepare for and recover from the event;

· magnitude of the event (likelihood and scale of physical impact), and;

· capacity of the community to cope economically and socially impact.

Recovery Assistance Measures may include:

Recovery facilitator(s): A recovery facilitator may be needed to coordinate response and recovery initiatives with various agencies, usually working alongside the Rural Support Trust.

Psychosocial support and community events: Rural Support Trusts manage events and extra outreach to help get farmers off-farm, reduce isolation and improve morale. They can also point people in the direction of specific help: financial, health, or otherwise.

Inland Revenue assistance: Tax relief measures may be made available on a case-by-case basis. These could include flexibility on tax dates, or income equalisation.

Enhanced Task Force Green: A labour assistance scheme that can be launched for clean-up and repairs.

Technology transfer costs: Grants may be provided for education and technical advice on recovery options relating to financial and contingency planning, including animal welfare.

Rural assistance payments (RAPs): Payments to families affected by specific events when their farm or orchard business can't meet essential living needs. These payments are set at 100% of the unemployment benefit level.

More information on adverse events is available at:

https://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/adverse-events/

Phone the Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254

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