Agriculture and Rural Minister Damien O’Connor has added the Grey and Buller districts on the South Island’s West Coast to the medium-scale drought declared in the lower North Island last month.
The extension of the drought classification means the local Rural Support Trust and other recovery organisations get a funding boost of up to $50,000 to help their local communities.
O’Connor declared 13 districts across Taranaki, Manawatu-Whanganui and Wellington were in drought conditions just before Christmas after an extremely dry start to the summer.
“On the back of an extremely wet winter that left many farmers unable to grow pasture or crops for spring, the early and unusual dry start to summer turned West Coast pastures from swamp to concrete,” O’Connor said.
“It was agreed that while farmers needed to plan for the worst, there was hope that the forecast rainstorms could break the drought before central government assistance became necessary. However, the Grey and Buller districts now meet the criteria for a medium-scale event.”
O’Connor, who is also the local MP for West Coast-Tasman, had been closely monitoring the dry-weather conditions in the lead-up to declaring the medium-scale event and today said there’s a watching brief on neighbouring areas including Murchison, which have missed out on rain.
The Ministry for Primary Industries classifies medium-scale events as those that impact farms and communities at a district or multi-district level.
Central government aid includes tax relief and income assistance. The ministry is reviewing its drought policy framework with a new policy expected to be in place by the middle of this year.