Drought declared in Nth Otago

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It’s official; drought has been declared in North Otago.

Minister for Primary Industries (MPI) Minister Nathan Guy made the announcement during a meeting with farmers at Opuha Dam in South Canterbury, which will run dry in the next few weeks without decent rainfall.

Drought conditions have been declared along the east coast of the South Island and affect parts of Otago, Canterbury, and the Marlborough District.

“This is recognition of the extreme dry conditions farmers and growers are facing, and triggers additional Government support,” said Mr Guy, who described the declaration as a “medium-scale adverse event.”

The are three adverse events levels: local, medium and national.

The criteria for assessing the scale of an adverse event are options available for the community to prepare for and recover from the event, the magnitude of the event (likelihood and scale of physical impact), the capacity of the community to cope economically and the social impact.

“The Ministry for Primary Industries has been monitoring the conditions very closely over recent months. Most farmers have coped so far by destocking and using feed supplies, and most will not need extra support. However it’s clear that conditions are only going to get tougher as the seasons change and we need to prepare now,” he said.

“Federated Farmers have started their feedline to co-ordinate supplies, and it’s pleasing to see some banks offering special packages.”

Extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts who work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.

Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) will also be made available in the next few months and will be available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development.

They are equivalent to the Jobseeker Support benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship.

North Otago Federated Farmers president Richard Strowger said the organisation had been in constant contact with the MPI since late December and into January.

He said the drought declaration was always bound to happen and that fact would not change a lot as far as farmers were concerned.

However, he warned the region to brace for the long-term impact.

“It means everyone is now aware of what the long-term implications are and that it’s going to have an impact on Oamaru.

“We’re going to have to find a lot of feed for these winter dairy cows, I don’t know where that will come from.

“There’s shearers with no work to do, contractors with no work to do . . . it’s the whole industry that’s been affected.”

Mr Strowger described the potential economic impact for North Otago as “huge” and said the drought declaration would have wide-ranging effects on the region.

“It’s not just about the farmers, it’s everyone that serves them as well.”

He expected the drought to be in pace for a long time.

“I can’t see a lot of change coming unless it rains significantly.”

By Daniel Birchfield