The News North Canterbury - Drought-affected area visited with Minister
Last week, the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and I met with drought-affected farmers in Cheviot. The North Canterbury area is still extremely dry, having been largely bypassed by the recent rain.
I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet local farmers and to hear about their situation first-hand.
I recognise the very difficult conditions they are dealing with and the Stuart Smith impact this is having on the farming community.
I welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that an extra $20,000 has been allocated to the North Canterbury Rural Support Trust.
This will help the Trust with more intensive local activities, including individual visits and community events.
Rural Assistance Payments (RAP) are also available for those facing extreme hardship. The Rural Support Trust can be contacted on 0800 787 254.
Farmers are advised to work with their accountants to access assistance and flexibility with tax obligations.
I encourage people to seek help from the support services available and to look out for one another where possible.
North Canterbury now has the highest soil moisture deficit in the country and has recorded the lowest rainfall for January to March since 1972.
The 2015 year has been the second driest summer for North Canterbury since records began 75 years ago.
The drought has added weight to the call for irrigation and water storage projects in North Canterbury.
As a Government we have invested $120 million in the last two Budgets for Crown Irrigation Ltd to invest in major projects around the country.
In addition to this, irrigation projects will receive a kick-start of $25 million in operating funding for five years from 2016/17 through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF).