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Published: 2010-10-13 00:00:00

Media release from Waikato Regional Drought Committee
The Waikato Regional Drought Committee says it will be keeping a close eye on weather conditions over summer in case there is a need for it to reactivate to provide help to farmers.

The multi-agency committee was formed earlier this year to coordinate the regional response to the late summer-autumn drought, the third such dry spell in three years. North Waikato and the north Hauraki Plains have been particularly affected this year.

The committee has now decided to formally suspend operations given the fact that rivers and soils currently have plenty of water after heavy rains, and farmer requests for advice and support have tapered off.

Metservice and NIWA say the current La Niña event has strengthened and is likely to continue till at least autumn 2011. In the Waikato, the prediction for spring and early summer is that temperatures are likely to be above average, with normal seasonal rainfall expected.

“However, we will maintain a close watch on weather and soil conditions as the summer progresses in case there’s a need for the committee to reactivate again to respond to fresh drought conditions,” said committee chairman Peter Buckley of Environment Waikato.

The North Island manager for policy at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Phil Journeaux said the Government will still be offering its Rural Assistance Payments to qualifying farmers until December.

Mr Journeaux said more than 30 farming families had qualified for Regional Assistance Payments after the Government declared the drought in the Waikato.

Also, the Rural Support Trust in the Waikato will continue to be available to provide advice to any farmers suffering the ongoing affects of the drought. The trust’s number is 0800 787 254.

The trust’s Waikato chairman Neil Bateup said dozens of farmers had called in seeking advice as a result of the drought. Most calls this year had been about stretched finances due to the cumulative impact of three dry years.

“It’s been tight and it’s still tight for some,” said Mr Bateup. “So we encourage anyone  needing advice to call us. We’re here to help.”

Mr Buckley said the committee’s establishment had been very useful in helping provide a coordinated response to the drought.

“The region has had excellent support from Government and the work of the trust has been fantastic. Also, the committee has been an excellent forum for such things as providing information to the banking sector and for keeping everyone informed of initiatives, such as DairyNZ’s field days designed to help farmers manage through tight times.”

Mr Buckley extended his thanks to all involved with the committee. “We have collectively made a difference to the way stretched farmers have coped with the drought. The committee has been a great example of the Waikato working together to get through adverse circumstances.”