Drought hits Auckland farmers the hardest

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 13:33 02/04/2014

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Auckland is the worst drought-affected area in the country and there is no end in sight, Federated Farmers says.

Federated Farmers Auckland president Wendy Clark said Auckland had gone about three months without any significant rain and Cyclone Lusi gave little or no relief to farmers in the area.

Farmers usually budgeted for about six weeks without rain during the Auckland summer, she said, but they were beginning to compare this year to the drought of 1974, when significant rain did not fall until the end of May.

And this year's drought was as bad as last year's 70-year drought for the worst-affected areas in the country, she said.

Last year's drought affected the whole country, putting pressure on supplementary feed supplies and freezing works killing space.

This year's drought was more localised but "all the profits are disappearing down the drain" as farmers were forced to pay for supplementary feed at rising prices, Clark said.

Farmers in the region had been forced to take remedial action, such as drying off their herds early so they did not have to feed as much.

Farmers who continued milking would have seen more profits from milk price payouts but had to feed their herds twice as much.

"They'll be getting out of pocket now," she said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, Federated Farmers and Rural Support Trust declared an official drought in Kaipara District north of Auckland last week.

However, the group of organisations were reluctant to officially declare a drought in Auckland, she said.

"If you have an official drought the message that comes across to our urban brothers is we're asking for a handout," Clark said, and there were a lot of farmers who were feeling financial stress.

For farmers to receive the rural assistance package, which was like a benefit for farmers, they had to have no assets left.

Clark said farmers were holding on to their assets and protecting their stock, even if it meant taking out a loan or extending their overdraught with their bank.

It was hard to know exactly how this year's drought compared to other droughts, she said, but nothing was growing and profits were slowing drying up too.

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