Government unlocks $2 million drought relief for farmers, growers

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has today classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event, unlocking up to $2 million in Government funding to support farmers and growers from now until June 2021.

The last large-scale adverse event classification for drought was in 2013.

“The intensity of the drought and its spread across multiple regions has affected many people and their livelihoods,” O’Connor said.

The $2 million package includes:

  • drought coordinators and additional coordinators where needed;
  • a feed working group;
  • expanded psychosocial support, including $90,000 for Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa;
  • animal welfare information and expertise; and
  • professional advice for recovery.

“This new funding allows us to boost co-ordination efforts and activate some additional recovery measures, including for animal welfare and wider rural communities, while also ensuring there is funding to respond to future adverse events,” he said.

The classification covers the entire North Island along with the top of the South Island (Tasman, Marlborough, Kaikoura), North Canterbury and the Chatham Islands.

Drought relief has been extended to cover the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay regions with $90,000 in funding available for local Rural Support Trusts to assist primary sector communities, provide farm management advice and animal welfare support.

“Farmers and growers have shown that they are able to roll with the punches and most have been well-prepared for these types of events, but as the weeks go by without significant rain in many parts of the country, there is a cumulative impact,” O’Connor said.

“It’s getting very hard for people to keep planning for, and it puts pressure on rural communities.”

Despite recent rain across parts of the North Island, many rural people remain under pressure with water shortages and low feed availability, he said.

“It will take more than a few sprinklings of rain to get out of drought.”

To date, the Government has provided more than $300,000 to support drought-stricken regions:

  • Northland and North Auckland – $80,000;
  • Waikato and South Auckland – $80,000; and
  • Gisborne, Manawatu, Rangitikei, and Tararua districts – $150,000.

Additionally the Defence Force has helped deliver water to towns and the Government has committed $2 million to set up temporary water supplies in Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

“With several requests for regional declarations of drought received in the past few weeks, it’s become clear that many farmers and growers in the North Island and parts of the South Island are facing very difficult dry conditions,” O’Connor said.

Tailored packages will be developed to suit each region’s needs. For those already in a medium-scale event, there will be funding for additional drought co-ordinators if needed, as well as access to recovery advice for affected primary sector businesses.

“Funding for psychosocial support in affected regions will also be boosted, and we’ll be working closely with farmers to help ensure the welfare of animals in their care.”

Note to Editors

Criteria for classifying a large-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.

MPI uses several criteria to help classify a drought as a large-scale adverse event, including the geographic extent and level of impacts of the drought, and whether farmers are coping and still have options to manage through it, such as access to supplementary feed.

Recovery Assistance Measures may include:

Recovery facilitator(s): A recovery facilitator may be needed to co-ordinate 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/

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