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Published: 2013-03-01 00:00:00

The Government is being asked to formally declare the Waikato region a drought zone, along with Auckland south of the harbour bridge and Rotorua-Rerewhakaaitu.

It follows a meeting today in Hamilton of the multi-agency Waikato Regional Drought Committee, which was attended by representatives from organisations in Waikato, Auckland and central Government. The committee heard how:

  • dry conditions in the Waikato have worsened since last week when the first regional drought committee meeting of this summer was held
  • the Waikato Rural Support Trust has been fielding more calls for help from stressed farmers
  • there is no substantial rain relief in sight
  • soil moisture is now worse than the same time at the 2008 drought, while rainfall at Ruakura for the three months to March is near record lows
  • feed supplies are tightening, it is harder to de-stock because of limited capacity at freezing works, and there is reduced ability to graze stock out of the region.

“We have asked government officials at the meeting to pass on our request to the Minister for Primary Industries to declare a drought in our region,’ said Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley, who chaired today’s committee meeting.

“The big dry has deepened in the past week, there’s no sign of any significant rain coming and the Rural Support Trust says more Waikato farmers are reporting they’re under stress because of this drought,” said Mr Buckley.

“A drought declaration from the minister will trigger direct assistance provisions – such as tax relief and special welfare payments - to those farmers facing more extreme circumstances.”

Ministry for Primary Industries officials at the meeting concurred with the committee’s approach and said they would take the request to the minister next week.

Mr Buckley said the Waikato drought committee will continue to meet as required.

“This drought clearly has potential to carry on for an extended period and we want to make sure we are all positioned to help where we can.”

Farmers are being advised to approach the Rural Support Trust, their bank or WINZ if they are facing problems. They are also being advised to follow the dry weather advice of their industry organisations such as Dairy NZ.

Waikato Regional Council advises people wanting to take surface water or groundwater for irrigation purposes during the current dry spell that they need to obtain a resource consent. Applications may take some time to process and water may not be available for irrigation in many catchments at this time.

Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from a wide range of organisations including the regional council, Rural Support Trust, Ministry for Primary Industries, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, and the Ministry of Social Development.