No drought ‘right’ call

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The Government has made the right decision in not declaring a drought, Federated Farmers North Otago president Richard Strowger says.

With soaring temperatures and a lack of rainfall so early in summer causing dry conditions, farmers around North Otago, Mid and South Canterbury, Wairarapa and Marlborough, have started to suffer.

However, Primary Industries Ministry Nathan Guys, announced earlier this week that while the Government would be monitoring the situation, they would not be declaring a “medium-scale adverse event” or drought, at this stage.

Mr Strowger said he did not think the Government was in any rush to declare a drought and he supported this because it would not really change anything for farmers.

“A drought is declared when it affects the whole community … when retailers and everyone else starts to feel a pinch.”

Farmers always expect dry conditions over summer and in North Otago they had done really well to manage this, but the biggest issue will be feeding stock over winter.

Last year spring was really cold so crops were unable to grow and now it is too dry, he said.

“If it doesn’t rain the crops won’t grow.”

The Primary Industries Ministry, who met with farmers near Ashburton on Tuesday, said district or regional groups needed to make a formal request for a drought to be declared and at this stage it had not been deemed necessary.

“This threshold would be reached when the lack of rainfall has an economic, environmental and social impact on farming businesses and the wider community.”

Farmers were managing the dry conditions by de-stocking and using feed supplies.

Support was available for farmers from government agencies and rural support trusts, which were doing a great job of co-ordinating farming communities and providing information, he said.

“Unfortunately droughts are nothing new for farmers. Two summers ago we suffered through the worst drought in 70 years, and last year we had severe dry spells in parts of Northland and Waikato.”

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesperson said the Government would look at declaring a drought if no substantial rain fell in the next couple of weeks.

Restrictions are in place for some irrigators as water levels drop around the region and the short-term outlook is not showing much rain on the horizon.

Farmers should contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income.

By Ruby Harfield