Delaying the introduction of new water reforms was not an option according to the two cabinet Ministers directly involved – Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the fund will allow for grants of up to $5,000 to be made available to farmers and growers in areas badly affected by the 2020 drought: all of the North Island, the Chatham Islands, Christchurch, Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, Selwyn, Kaikoura and Waimakariri districts and regions.
Farmers and growers who apply for grants will have to prove their businesses have been negatively affected by the drought and that they derive at least 50% of their income from the property.
The money is to be used by farmers to access a range of advisory services and drought-related advice, including help with strategic planning, technical advice on soil, pastures, animal production and feed budgeting. Grants can also be used for land management and sustainable management techniques.
O’Connor says that as New Zealand rebuilds its economy, there is an opportunity to rebuild better than before the pandemic and factor in resilience for our productive primary sector. He says so far this year the Government has invested $17 million to help drought-stricken regions recover from what many are saying is the worst drought in living memory.
“Although there has been a bit of rain relief recently, it takes steady rain at the right time to get grass growing again.
“The flow-on effects of water shortages and low feed availability take a long time to fully recover from and some farmers will be dealing with the effects of this drought for a year or more. One of the unusual consequences of the drought has already started to be noticed by consumers – that being the paler colour of our butter. As the saying goes ‘you are what you eat’ and the same goes for cows,” he says.
O’Connor says NZ’s unique pasture-based farming system gives our butter a wonderful yellow colour but the shortage of grass and reliance on supplementary feed has meant our butter has started to turn white.
“A return to yellow will maintain our competitive advantage in our export markets,” he says.