Dry weather is spreading through Waikato but farmers are coping, says Waikato Primary Industry Adverse Event Cluster chairman Neil Bateup.
Declaration as a medium-scale adverse event means that extra government funding will be available to co-ordinate support. These include advisory services for drought management, co-ordination of relief efforts, some community events, recovery facilitators, labour assistance and limited Rural Assistance Payments for those who qualify through the Ministry of Social Development.
"Farmers can also contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments," says Guy (pictured with Dargaville dairy farmer Malcolm Welsh).
The Rural Support Trust activated the Northland Adverse Events Committee several weeks ago to monitor the worsening situation. Members include representatives of local and central government, rural support groups, the agricultural and horticultural industries, animal welfare organisations and the financial sector.
The role of the committee is to provide communication and coordination. It has four subcommittees which work with the community to address specific drought-related issues.
• Extension/Advice Subcommittee – members aim to keep Northlanders informed about drought developments and provide drought management tips for farmers and horticulturists.
• Financial Subcommittee – members include Northland financial professionals who work to help the rural community rise to the various financial challenges droughts create.
• NRC – providing additional information and services which enable the Rural Support Trust to deliver assistance packages.
• Welfare Subcommittee – Coordinate social meetings, encourage local networks and provide coordination of community events.
One-on-one help is delivered through Agricultural Recovery Facilitators (ARFs) who are experienced semi-retired farmers who are able to discuss the farm situation and well-being of farmers in depth. They are able to facilitate assistance from professional counsellors, financiers and farm management advisors including working to coordinate welfare assistance that may be available.
All of Northland now has soil moisture deficits over 100mm, which means prolonged and repeated rainfall is needed to recharge the soil and get autumn pasture growth moving. MetService and NIWA believe there is little chance of useful rain until the middle of March at the earliest.
For the west coast, rainfall since October has been well below average, and especially dry in January and February. At Dargaville the soil moisture deficit is nearing the permanent wilting point (150mm).
Some eastern regions received short falls of rain in late December and again in early February but the benefits have long since dried up.
Dairy farms throughout the province report daily milk production 20% below this time last year and many have dried off a portion of the herd or turned to once-a-day milking.
Spot supply of palm kernel supplementary feed is getting tight and the cost to farmers is increasing.
Beef cattle and sheep farms have been forced to destock to deal with the drought, but livestock prices are well down.
Orchards fear irrigation restrictions and report a lack of effectiveness of irrigation.
Farmers and orchardists who are feeling the pressure and are unable to see a way out are urged to get in touch with the Northland Rural Support Trust without delay.
The Northland Rural Support Trust can be reached on 0800 787 254 through its coordinator Julie Jonker.