Canty farmers near desperation

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 09:18 07/03/2013
Cardboard cathedral reflection in puddle
John Kirk-Anderson

DRIZZLE: Just enough rain fell last night to create a few puddles, as shown by this watery reflection of the cardboard cathedral.

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North Canterbury farmers may be turning to Work and Income for help if the crippling dry spell continues.

As the Manawatu and Rangitikei plead for an official drought declaration, farmers in Canterbury believe their situation is also becoming dire.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Neil Stott said the lack of rain in the area and soaring temperatures this summer had made it "damn hard" for farmers.

"It's very frustrating - it's all very well to a have a low price and all very well to have a drought but when you put them together, it's damn hard."

However, he was unsure if an official drought declaration would help the situation.

"I'm guessing people will be asking for it but I can't see a whole lot of gain in it.

"It lets the country know you've got a problem, and we'd get a bit of assistance from the rural support group, but in general there's not really a great big advantage in my opinion."

If the region didn't receive any rainfall in the next few weeks, the next course of action would be for farmers to sell off livestock or approach Winz for help, he said.

Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president Chris Allen, said  the dry spell in Mid Canterbury was "pretty serious", but nothing compared to what parts of the North Island were going through.

He said they were not at the point of having "discussions with the government just yet".

"It's a discussion we probably need to start thinking about, but at this stage we're just very very dry."

Last week, the Government declared Northland and north Auckland were in drought following a particularly dry summer, and included Waikato, Bay of Plenty, south Auckland and Hawke's Bay yesterday.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said he was also keeping a close eye on parts of the East Coast, the Wairarapa, Manawatu and Taranaki.

The declaration of a medium-scale drought meant extra government funding would be available to rural support trusts, which worked closely with farmers to provide support and guidance, Guy said.

Rural assistance payments equivalent to the unemployment benefit would also be available from Work and Income.

ANZ  is also providing a farm drought assistance package in the regions declared to be in drought to help farmers meet short term cash requirements while the BNZ has empowered front line staff to offer low-interest loans and emergency family funding to drought-affected farmers.

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- The Press

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