Damien O'Connor: Hot dry summer hit our rural communities the hardest

Opinion 14/03/2019
Photo: AAP.

By Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture and for Rural Communities.

OPINION: This year has been one of the driest summers we have experienced in New Zealand and our rural communities are feeling the effects more than anyone.

Our farmers and growers in parts of New Zealand are no strangers to hot dry summers, but the extreme and prolonged nature of this particular dry spell are taking their toll.

While rain has started in the area now, and we hope it continues, the lack of rain up to now means we have reached the point beyond the rural community’s ability to continue farming or growing through it.

Water shortages and restrictions have resulted in farmers having to take serious destocking measures, and horticulturists are having to choose which crops to let die off and which to water.

Last month I declared a medium-scale event and approved $100,000 to be allocated to the Top of the South Island Rural Support Trust to support farmers affected by the fires and drought.

This event has now been extended to include Tasman’s neighbouring regions Marlborough and Buller.

Hon Damien O'Connor. Photo: Supplied.

The initial funds have not been exhausted so there is still significant financial support available for those affected by drought in Nelson and Marlborough. As well as extending the drought classification, $30,000 has been allocated to West Coast Rural Support Trust for recovery support for the Buller region.

This will initiate some much needed support for these regions.

These funds will bolster recovery activities such as:

  • Local groups such as the Rural Support Trusts and industry organisations running information sessions, technical transfer activities, and other events to help support the rural communities.
  • One-to-one and group pastoral care and referrals from the Rural Support Trust.
  • Coordination of help, resources and information for recovery.

Work and Income and Inland Revenue have some recovery measures to help rural people get through drought and back to farming as usual when the weather allows.

Other support available includes the Federated Farmers feedline. They have also put out extra requests to members to offer grazing in the area, given that water is a greater issue than feed.

I encourage those who are feeling the pinch to get in touch with their local Rural Support Trust co-ordinator. They are well equipped to be able to help you.

I would like to finish off by personally thanking all of those who have assisted with the fires and droughts so far. It’s always important we work together in these situations and that is what I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

Your support is appreciated by me and my parliamentary colleagues, just as I’m sure it is by those in the drought-affected areas.

Damien O’Connor is Minister of Agriculture and for Rural Communities.