Re­cov­ery will take years

Sup­port flows as land dries

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By FLORENCE KERR

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.

James Houghton

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