Drought Assistance to 31 December 1998

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

Federated Farmers will receive a further $477,000 for drought assistance through to the end of the year, Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith announced today.

The Government intends that the assistance will be divided amongst Hawke's Bay (24.4%), Wairarapa/Tararua (30.7%), Marlborough (14.7%), North Canterbury (17.9%), South Canterbury (5.8%), North Otago (2.3%) and Federated Farmers' Head Office (4.2%), although Federated Farmers will have flexibility to reallocate approved funding between regions if the necessity arises.

The funding has been allocated for technical support, rural support and counselling, management and coordination and grants to community trusts.

Sixty percent of the funding ($286,200) will be available for use up until 30 September, with the remainder becoming available after that date following a needs analysis in mid-September.

In addition, farmers and their families in the six regions, plus Gisborne, will be eligible for support through the Rural Sector Assistance Programme, subject to the usual criteria.

Dr Smith said urban New Zealanders should not allow heavy rain in the cities to fool them into thinking that the drought was over.

"Many drought-hit areas have still had no rain to speak of, and winter's lower temperatures mean that even if rain does fall we will still not see any significant grass growth until spring.

"A winter drought such as this is an extraordinarily difficult situation to deal with, and the farmers who have coped so well have the Government's admiration.

"This national support package will not reverse the physical effects of the drought, but it will help to take the edge off the stress it inflicts on farmers and their families."

Dr Smith also commended local councils which had assisted drought-hit farming families, and encouraged them to continue such support.

Today's announcement brings the Government's assistance to drought-hit regions this year to approximately $3 million. This consists of $900,000 in direct assistance, plus an estimated $2.1 million for income support.