The News North Canterbury - Drought extension

Columns
Monday, February 1, 2016

Despite the morale- boosting rains which fell in early January, the announcement of an extension to the drought status for Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago will be welcomed by all.

The extension to June 30, announced by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy during one of his regular visits to the parched Hurunui district, means those effected by the prolonged drought can continue to access vital Government support.

The official medium-scale drought period, set in February last year, was due to expire on February 15 this year.

This is the third time Nathan Guy has extended the medium adverse event classification for the drought: The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has predicted that the current challenging El Nino weather patterns will remain until March.

Even if rain events as seen earlier this year continue into autumn, which would be fantastic, farmers will continue to feel the effects for a long time to come and as such, the Government’s focus on drought-stricken areas will continue.

That focus will be on building resilience into farming systems for those where irrigation is not an option.

This includes vital irrigation schemes such as the recently consented Hurunui Water Project, which can now begin planning and building after a High Court ruling last year.

Irrigation provides economic and social benefits for the community as a whole, stimulating the economy and resulting in increased productivity in the region, and it is heartening to see the Hurunui Water Project underway once again.

Prior to the January rain, irrigators themselves were facing restrictions as river levels fell.

Thanks to the drought period extension, Rural Support Trusts will receive up to $150,000 in funding.

These trusts do great work in supporting, farmers by working closely with them to get through these challenging times.

This includes not only directing farmers to financial relief assistance, but monitoring their personal well-being, organising community events and one-on-one mentoring.

Farmers also have access to IRD flexibility for tax payments during the drought and access to financial support such as Rural Assistance Payments.

Of course, farmers in our Kaikoura Electorate are no strangers to drought and have proved their resilience time and time again.

During this drought, farmers have managed very well through mitigation and careful management like culling stock early and bringing in extra feed.

But as I have written previously, it is important that all farmers seek help if and when they require it.

The help and support is there: I encourage you to access it and to urge your neighbours and community to do the same.