Drought-stricken farmers in Northland will receive government aid, Agriculture Minister David Carter said today.
A recovery package is in place to help farmers after the Government declared Northland a medium-level drought. All three Northland districts -- the Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara -- have been affected.
The relief will include tax assistance for farmers, farm management advice, welfare support and funding for Rural Support Trusts to provide help.
In Northland, Whangarei received only a third of the usual rainfall in the three months leading up to January 1 -- less rainfall than in the three months before the 1987 drought when levels at Whau Valley Dam dropped to 12 percent of the full capacity.
Conditions have worsened with the recent low rainfall, high winds and temperatures.
"The situation in Northland is grim and if there is low rainfall through to March, as predicted, there won't be enough grass to feed livestock in many years.
"As a farmer myself, I have real sympathy for the pain that farmers are feeling under these conditions. There is severe pressure on Northland rural communities."
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff has been keeping a close watch on the "big dry" in many regions. Mr Carter said they would continue to monitor the situation and liaising with local rural support trusts which provide farm management advice and other help in communities battling adverse conditions.
"I urge farmers in Northland to talk to their local Rural Support Trust and to seek advice if they are finding the conditions tough. The Government is fully committed to helping rural communities through this," he said.
Mr Carter will be heading to Northland on Friday to meet with the Northland Rural Support Trust and farmers dealing with the drought.
"I want to see and hear what's happening to make sure that relief measures and government assistance meet the needs of those affected," he said.
Drought could have a devastating effect on farmers, rural communities and the economy, with the impact felt by all New Zealanders.
The last significant drought, two years ago, cost the country almost $3 billion in lost earnings.