North Island now a drought zone
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A state of drought has been officially declared throughout the entire North Island by the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.
“Local groups have asked for regional declarations of drought in the past week, and it has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions," he says in a statement.
“Extra government funding will now be available to rural support trusts who work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance."
There would also be rural assistance payments available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development. "These are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship.
“Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available. This is a difficult time for rural families and they need to know that the government and all New Zealanders are behind them."
The declaration comes after Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler warned yesterday if substantial rain does not arrive soon, the country could face a similar event as that in 2007-08, which shaved 1% from the economy.
The impact so far has reduced 0.2 to 0.3 of a percentage point from gross domestic product in the first half of this year, according to central bank forecasts.
Mr Guy says some rain is forecast this weekend.
"However, we will need more than this to help prepare for the winter and set up for next spring.
“Parts of the South Island are also very dry, in particular the Grey and Buller districts. We are keeping a close watch on all further regions.
“I’m very pleased with how communities have pulled together to help each other out. Federated Farmers have been operating a ‘Feedline’ to match farmers with feed supplies, which is receiving good interest.
“Beef + Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries and others have also been providing practical support.
“Farmers should contact their accountants or the IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income,” Mr Guy says.
Previously drought has been declared in Northland and North Auckland (February 27) and in the South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay regions (March 6).
Additional reporting: BusinessDesk