“Local groups have asked for regional declarations of drought in the past week and it has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions.
“Extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts who work 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.
“Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available. This is a difficult time for rural families and they need to know that the Government and all New Zealanders are behind them.
“Some rain is forecast this weekend, which is welcome news. However, we will need more than this to help prepare for the winter and set up for next spring.
“Parts of the South Island are also very dry, in particular the Grey and Buller districts. We are keeping a close watch on all further regions.
“I’m very pleased with how communities have pulled together to help each other out. Federated Farmers have been operating a ‘Feedline’ to match farmers with feed supplies, which is receiving good interest.
“Beef + Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries and others have also been providing practical support.
“Farmers should contact their accountants or the IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income,” says Mr Guy.
Previously drought has been declared in Northland and North Auckland (February 27) and in the South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay regions (March 6).
Regularly updated drought information is available here.