Government keeping an eye on the dry

  • Hon Damien O’Connor

Hon Damien O’Connor

Minister Agriculture


Image removed.

6 December 2017


Government keeping an eye on the dry


Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor has asked officials to keep a close watch on how farmers and growers are managing in dry conditions, as the hot start to summer affects soil moisture levels across the country.


“Farmers and growers in many of our regions are experiencing lower than normal soil moisture levels for this time of year,” says Mr O’Connor, “and are planning ahead to manage stock, feed, and water if they don’t get some decent rainfall over the next few weeks.


“Local knowledge is essential, and our Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) analysts in each area work with their local farmers and groups to keep an eye on how climate conditions around the country are affecting rural communities.  I have asked them to be especially vigilant in reporting concerns over the next few weeks.”


MPI works closely with groups, including Rural Support Trusts, regional councils, local civil defence emergency management groups and other government agencies to gather information.


NIWA meteorologist Chris Brandolino says below normal rainfall is expected for most of New Zealand for at least the next 10 days with perhaps only localised exceptions. 

“It’s distinctly possible that much of the country will experience below normal rainfall through to the Christmas holiday period, and December temperatures are very likely to remain above average for all of New Zealand and the summer season as a whole.”

Particular hotspots are found across Hawke’s Bay, in parts of southern Manawatu-Whanganui, northern Waikato and Wellington-Wairarapa; hotspots are developing across much of the South Island with the exception of parts of Central Otago due to last week’s thunderstorms.

Industry groups, including DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, have information to manage dry conditions. Farmers and growers can also call their local Rural Support Trust for a chat or to get pointed in the right direction on 0800 787 254.

Contact: Sean Scanlon 021 863 138




More information
Droughts can occur at any time and on a small or localised scale may be acknowledged by district or regional councils. MPI doesn’t declare droughts, but helps to identify if it should be classified as medium- or large-scale, based on its impact on the rural sector.


The classification system helps assess what recovery measures may be needed for farming families who are impacted by the event. If the Minister does not formally classify an adverse event as medium-scale or large-scale, the event is considered localised and no additional central government assistance is triggered.


A key tool is NIWA’s New Zealand Drought Index, which is used to monitor the dryness status of every district in the country.  The process of classification and determining what recovery measures are needed is not only about how dry the weather has been. Guidance also includes:

  • options available for farmers to prepare for the event
  • the likelihood and scale of the physical impact
  • the ability of the local community to cope socially and economically.


Medium-scale and large-scale events acknowledged by the Government can trigger recovery measures such as additional funding for Rural Support Trusts to help their communities. The support available during a localised event, such as standard income assistance options, may be made accessed as normal.