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 provide advisory services that usually cost $5000 to better equip rural businesses with professional and technical advice to help them recover from and prepare for future drought.
O’Connor says, despite some recent rain relief, steady rain at the right time is required to get grass growing again.
He says it will take a long time for farmers to fully recover from the effects of current water shortages and low feed availability as a result of drought. For some farmers, he says this may take a year or more.
Meanwhile, he claims the drought has impacted New Zealand’s competitive advantage overseas by changing the colour of our butter.
“One of the unusual consequences of the drought is already starting to be noticed by consumers – that being the paler colour of our butter.
“New Zealand’s unique pasture-based farming system gives our butter a wonderful yellow colour. 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.”
O’Connor says good advice is key to recovery through drought, and that’s why the fund was created.
“But there are also ongoing, acute issues that need to be addressed with urgency. Access to feed is the biggest acute issue so two feed coordinators are in place as of today, one in the North Island and another in the South, to make sure available feed gets from where it is to where it’s most needed.
“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. It has affected all of the North Island and a good portion of the South.”