A state of drought has been officially declared in the Buller and Grey Districts today by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
These are the first two South Island areas to be officially declared as in drought, following on from the whole of the North Island, which remains officially in drought.
There's mounting concern about the impact of the drought on the economy, with estimates of the damage it might do to our GDP steadily mounting. As things stand there are suggestions as much as a full percentage point might be knocked off economic growth this year.
The declaration of drought conditions in Grey and Buller follows a meeting held this afternoon in Greymouth at which local farmers actually asked the Government the declaration.
“The rain over the last week has not been enough to help these districts, and there is only limited rain forecast for the next two weeks," Guy said.
“It is very unusual for the West Coast to experience drought conditions and is not something that local farmers are used to. It shows just how extreme this dry period has been.
“Conditions have deteriorated quickly, and local farmers have asked the Government to recognise the tough situation they are facing.
“I’ve been in touch with the local Rural Support Trust and Federated Farmers to get a feel for the situation on the ground. I’m concerned to hear there have been frosts this week, which is a sign that winter is on its way and will slow pasture growth recovery.
“This decision has been made after an assessment from the Ministry for Primary Industries, including consultation with the communities affected.
“This means that extra Government funding will now be available to the local Rural Support Trust which works closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.
“There will also be Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development. These are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship.
“Farmers should contact their accountant or the IRD if they need help or flexibility with the timing of tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income,” Guy says.