Friday, 01 April 2022 10:22

Govt drought support doesn't go far enough - Simmonds

Written by  Staff Reporters
Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says the Government's drought support for Southland, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts isn't enough. Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says the Government's drought support for Southland, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts isn't enough.

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says the Government’s declaration of a drought in Southland is big on talk, but small on funding support.

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the current drought condition in the Southland, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event.

The adverse event classification unlocks up to $100,000 in Government funding to support farmers and growers until October 2022, O’Connor says.

“The drought coupled with pandemic disruption to meat processing has contributed to added strain on people.

“Our primary sector is crucial to our economic recovery from Covid-19. While currently returning record exports, the sector is exposed to climatic events and where we can support them through we will, while also working in partnership to strengthen the climate resilience of the sector in future.”

However, Simmonds says that while she’s pleased the hardships of local farmers are being recognised she doesn’t believe the funding goes far enough.

“This adverse event classification will only release about $100,000 in funding, from now until October 2022. That equates to just $3,500 a week, to support hundreds of farmers right across Southland, the Clutha and the Queenstown Lakes districts. It just won’t be enough.

“Things are really dire in the South,” she says, pointing out that Environment Southland had taken the step of issuing a Water Shortage Direction for the whole province.

This direction means irrigation water takes must cease immediately, something Simmonds says will create more challenges and stress for farmers.

“Based on the current situation, I don’t think the Government’s drought funding will be able to cover the demands placed on Southland and Otago’s Rural Support Trusts, Federated Farmers, primary sector groups and councils – and it certainly won’t ‘go the extra mile that Damien O’Connor suggests it will.”

“The primary sector in the South has kept this country going during the two-year Covid pandemic, now when our farmers are in need the Government has offered them a pittance. It’s disappointing and insulting.”

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