Criticism Of Initial Hawke's Bay Assistance Package

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
Agriculture

Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith says he expected to cop some flak from Hawke's Bay farmers and horticulturalists after announcing yesterday's initial assistance of $84,200 to the region.

"In situations as desperate as this, tempers flare,"" he said. "Knowing that the initial package was less than that was requested, I had to expect some flak."

Dr Smith approved the package, as recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, within an hour of it arriving in his office on Monday.

"MAF believed that the $84,200 would be adequate to provide the services sought by Federated Farmers. I believed it was better to approve the initial package on the spot so that the money could start helping people rather than spend another week debating the level of initial support with officials. I also believed it was better to approve the initial package immediately rather than waiting for all the elements - including income support and initiatives for the horticulture sector - to be finalised," he said.

"The important thing now is for the local people to get on with the drought relief effort, and start spending the money to help people. Nothing will be achieved from wasting time abusing one another. If it turns out that the money is not adequate to provide the services sought by Federated Farmers then we can look at the issue again."

The level of funding will automatically be reviewed in June, but Dr Smith says that he will act sooner if necessary. Both MAF and National Party List MP Annabel Young are keeping him fully briefed on the situation.

Dr Smith is to visit the Hawke's Bay personally on 7 May.