Recovery will take years
Support flows as land dries
South Waikato farmers are experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent years.
Last week the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said a medium- scale drought had officially been declared for Waikato, Bay of Plenty, South Auckland and Hawke’s Bay.
It has been more than a month since the Waikato recorded any beneficial rainfall, according to the MetService.
South Waikato Federated Farmers Chair Mary-Anne Mathis said the drought faced by South Waikato Farmers could take three years to recover from.
‘‘In 2008 the Far North went into drought and the farmers from the area were just starting to come right when this hit. We are looking at a three-year time frame to get over this.’’
Federated Farmers are holding a meeting for all farmers, their families and farm employees this Friday at 3.30pm at the Lichfield School and Community Hall.
The meeting will be an opportunity for those in the farming profession to get together informally to talk through some of the challenges being faced.
Representatives from Beef & Lamb New Zealand, Rural Women New Zealand, Rural Support Trust and banks will also be there.
Mrs Mathis said it is imperative that farmers keep in contact with one another.
‘‘This a forum where we all can come together in a supportive environment and problem solve and help one another out.’’ she said.
Mrs Mathis said the dry con- ditions have been noticeable since last year.
‘‘The issue is that it has been dry since October/November. The moisture levels are extremely low. Farmers who have relied on springs and dams have found that they have dried up,’’ she said.
‘‘ There was quite good production up until December. The change has been quick, with some drying off their herds and others putting their cows on once-a-day.’’
Mrs Mathis said a lot of stock is being sent to meat processing plants due to the lack of feed available.
‘‘The real issue is access to feed. Nearly every district is in drought, there really is hardly any place to turn too.’’
Greenlea Premier Meats livestock manager Bruce Mudgway said Greenlea sites in Hamilton and Morrinsville have been running non-stop.
‘‘Basically, both processing sites since Christmas have been running seven days a week to shift farmers stock due to the drought conditions.’’
Mr Mudgway said Greenlea is also using another processing plant, A&P in Auckland, due to the additional workload.
‘‘We have seen droughts in our time, but not to this extent. The big concern is water going forward. We are pushing hard with two shifts and our workers have been really supportive doing overtime to ensure our farmers get the support they need.’’
With the drought declaration comes extra Government funding to be made available to Rural Support trusts.
Rural assistance payments will also be available from Work and Income through the Ministry of Social Development.
These are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available to rural people in extreme hardship, the minister said.
The official declaration of a drought in the region offers a psychological prop rather than practical support for the average dairy farmer, says Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton.
‘‘It gives farmers recognition of what they are dealing with, (Financial) assistance is not the main thrust. It provides resources to those who are really desperate . . . but it is not really designed for the average farmer.’’
Additional reporting Waikato Times
OFFICIAL: South Waikato is now in a state of drought.