Drought call ‘premature’

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The Otago Regional Council’s call for a drought to be declared may be premature, North Otago Federated Farmers president Richard Strowger says.

In recognition of the worst dry conditions since a severe drought in 1999, the Otago Regional Council asked the Government on Friday to formally declare a drought in the Otago region.

However, Mr Strowger said the Government would unlikely be able to declare a drought because not all criteria had been met.

For a medium-scale adverse event – or drought – to be declared, the lack of rainfall would need to have an economic, environment and social impact on farming businesses and the wider community.

“It’s not just how dry it is, it’s the impact on the whole community,” he said.

At this stage, the dry conditions was not having a big enough impact on the wider community.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker, who made the drought request to Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy on Friday, said a formal classification of an adverse event such as a drought would allow the Government to determine what support and assistance its agencies could provide to those affected.

Mr Bodeker said the continual dry weather meant conditions were now worse than those of the severe drought of 1999.

But earlier this month, Mr Guy announced that while the Government would be monitoring the situation around the country, it would not be declaring a drought, at this stage.

In an effort to ease stress for North Otago and South Canterbury farmers during the dry weather, the “Thirst Quencher” has been organised at the Kurow Hotel on Sunday, February 15 from 1pm.

The event, organised by the “Waitaki Wags” would be an afternoon of entertainment, food and activities.

Organiser Juliet Gray said the dry weather had been hard on farmers so they wanted to organise something to keep their spirits up.

“This warm weather is really getting to the farmers and we decided an afternoon where they can catch up with other farmers and chat about things, but also enjoy a few beers and some entertainment is something they’d enjoy.

“This weather has hit the farmers hard. Some are coping and some aren’t and we thought why not have an event where they can come to and take their mind off farming for an afternoon.”

Farmers and their families are invited to spend the afternoon at the Kurow Hotel for a barbecue, a drink, music and an informal “rain dance”.

Bex Murray and the No Reason Band would play into the night and farmer Doug Avery would speak.

For more information, or to get involved, please contact Elizabeth Hayes 021 858 757 or Juliet Gray 021 677 342.

Support is available for farmers from Government agencies and Rural Support Trusts.

By Ruby Harfield and Brayden Lindsay