Government approves hail damage assistance

  • Peter McCardle

Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith, Employment Minister Peter McCardle and Social Welfare Minister Roger Sowry today announced assistance for fruit growers severely affected by recent hailstorms. "While the trend in recent times has been for the Government to move away from direct assistance in such cases, it is obvious that there has been a series of exceptionally damaging events that justify extending help," the Ministers said. The assistance outlined by the Ministers includes:

  • Financial support for the Hail Damage Taskforces that are co-ordinating assistance at the local level
  • Taskforce Green assistance for growers who have lost more than 50% of their export crop, under the "Spring Clean" option, which requires a contribution from the orchardist
  • Help for orchardists in financial difficulty who are unable to meet their living costs, through Rural Assistance Grants under Income Support
  • Grants from the Minister of Agriculture's emergency fund:
  1. A grant of $20,000 for urgent technical advice to orchardists affected by hailstorms in Hawkes Bay and $5,000 for Nelson.
  2. A 1:1 grant of up to $30,000 for community trusts, if established.
  3. A 1:1 grant of up to $20,000 for rural support co-ordinators.

The Ministry of Agriculture will arrange for the distribution of the funds between Nelson and Hawkes Bay, which are in addition to that approved in response to hail in November. Ministers pointed out that several other areas in New Zealand have also been hit by hail, and some orchardists in those areas have been severely affected.

"As there is little regional impact they would not normally be considered for central government assistance, but we are concerned that orchardists in similar circumstances, even if in different regions, should receive similar assistance. On this basis, we have agreed that assistance be made available to all orchardists that qualify, irrespective of location."

Areas to benefit include Northland, Gisborne, Horowhenua, Wairarapa and Central Otago. The Ministers noted that recent events emphasise the need for realistic risk management strategies in fruit growing and horticulture areas, but congratulated the swift response of communities.

"We commend the community and industry leaders and technical advisers for the formation of Hail Damage Taskforces. We sincerely hope that commitment, and this assistance package, mean that Christmas will not be quite so bleak for orchardists who have suffered severe losses."