IT’S been a very busy first month for me as Minister for Primary Industries with some big issues to deal with, in particular, water – or lack of it.
It’s a tough time for many farmers, which is why I’ve declared a medium-scale drought throughout many parts of the North Island.
What this means is that extra government funding is now available to coordinate support through local organisations like the Rural Support Trusts.
They are able to sit down at the kitchen table with farmers and give practical guidance and support.
In severe hardship cases there will also be Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) available.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and MPI are all providing good support to farmers with things like feed coordination services. Support is available from government agencies in all regions, even without a drought declaration.
Farmers should contact Inland Revenue if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard assistance is available from the Ministry of Social Development.
Most farmers are resilient and are prepared for dry spells, but it’s important to ask for help when needed.
I’ve visited several farms around the North Island recently to see the dry conditions for myself.
I have also visited the sites of potential irrigation projects in Central Hawke’s Bay and in Canterbury, which could help in future dry spells like this one.
As a country New Zealand doesn’t have a shortage of water, it’s just it often falls in the wrong places at the wrong times.
This is why the Government has signalled about $400 million towards regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment.
A few weeks ago I announced that experienced director Alison Paterson will oversee the establishment of a new Crown company to invest in these projects.
The new company will be established on July 1 and will act as a bridging investor for regional projects, with $80 million to be set aside in this year’s Budget.
Done properly, this has the potential to deliver a major boost to our primary industries.
FRONTING UP: Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, with farmer David Meads, faces media after declaring Northland a drought zone. Mr Guy says the Government is investing about $400 million in irrigation projects.