Agriculture Minister declares adverse event for Waikato primary sector

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has today classified the drought conditions in Waikato and South Auckland as an adverse event for the primary sector, unlocking $80,000 in Government support for farmers and growers.

“This is recognition that the extreme and prolonged nature of this dry spell is taking its toll on the primary sector and additional support is needed,” said Minister O’Connor.

“The lack of any substantial rainfall over the past few months means that the drought situation in the region has reached the point where assistance is needed to help the rural community get through.

“This unlocks initial extra funding of $80,000 for the Waikato, Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust to help speed up the recovery of farming and horticultural businesses,” he said.

The Waikato Rural Support Trust region includes South Auckland (Manukau and Papakura) Hamilton, Hauraki, Matamata- Piako, Ōtorohanga, South Waikato, Taupo, Thames- Coromandel, Waikato, Waipa, and Waitomo.

“Farmers in Waikato are no strangers to dry summers and they have had good grass silage on hand to date but the longer they go without rain, the harder it becomes to carry on as usual.”

Today’s announcement follows adverse event classifications in Northland and North Auckland earlier this month where $80,000 was allocated to the Rural Support Trust to support affected farmers.

“I’m continuing to keep a close eye on conditions in Northland as well as many other parts of the country, in case more help is required. The Government is committed to doing all we can to support farmers and growers at what is a very challenging time.”

The $80,000 will bolster recovery activities in affected rural areas including:

  • Local groups such as the Rural Support Trusts and industry organisations running information sessions, technical transfer activities, and other community events to help support farmers and growers;
  • One-to-one and group support from the Rural Support Trust; and
  • Coordination of help, resources and information for recovery.

Work and Income and Inland Revenue also have some recovery measures to help rural people get through drought and back to farming as usual when the weather allows.

“I encourage farmers to seek professional advice from Rural Support Trusts, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ who can provide information about managing dry conditions," O’Connor said.

"They can also contact their accountants or banks if they need help or flexibility with making payments."

Criteria for classifying a medium-scale adverse event

There are three levels of ‘adverse events’ – localised, medium and large. These can cover events like drought, floods, fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The criteria for assessing the scale of an adverse event are:

  • Options available for the community to prepare for and recover from the event;  
  • Magnitude of the event (likelihood and scale of physical impact), and;
  • Capacity of the community to cope economically and socially impact.

Recovery Assistance Measures may include:
Recovery facilitator(s): A recovery facilitator may be needed to coordinate response and recovery initiatives with various agencies, usually working alongside the Rural Support Trust.

Psychosocial support and community events: Rural Support Trusts manage events and extra outreach to help get farmers off-farm, reduce isolation and improve morale. They can also point people in the direction of specific help: financial, health, or otherwise.

Inland Revenue assistance: Tax relief measures may be made available on a case-by-case basis. These could include flexibility on tax dates, or income equalisation.

Enhanced Task Force Green: A labour assistance scheme that can be launched for clean-up and repairs.

Technology transfer costs: Grants may be provided for education and technical advice on recovery options relating to financial and contingency planning, including animal welfare.

Rural assistance payments (RAPs): Payments to families affected by specific events when their farm or orchard business can't meet essential living needs. These payments are set at 100% of the unemployment benefit level.