It's not drought - yet

ALI TOCKER
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013
Waikato drought
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

THE BIG DRY: Waikato's paddocks are looking dry as dust but drought has not been declared - yet.

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Officials are not declaring a drought in the Waikato just yet. But watch this space - officials will meet again on Friday to reassess the situation.

Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley said while farmers were stressed, most were coping, and they were not as stressed as in the big drought of 2008.

Stock feed was still available, whereas in 2008 it had run out and had been impossible to get palm kernel or decent silage.

"Some of the feedback we've had is that if we declared a drought too early, farmers would be seen as whingers," Mr Buckley said.

A drought committee has been formed to monitor the situation and will meet again every week for as long as needed.

"We'll keep things under close review," Mr Buckley said. "The next couple of weeks will be critical."

The decision was based on a range of factors including soil moisture levels, river levels, conditions around the region and how well farmers were faring.

While the current dry had come on a lot quicker than the 2008 drought, farmers had been warned about this year's situation so were better prepared.

The meeting involved representatives from the council, Ministry for Primary Industries, Federated Farmers and Rural Support Trust.

Mr Buckley said it was recognised that some farmers were in need and struggling because of their individual circumstances.

Farmers under pressure can contact Work and Income New Zealand for assistance.

Farmers are also encouraged to contact the Rural Support Trust, the council or Federated Farmers to share their perspectives on the drought.

"The more information we can get for the drought committee, the better judgements we can make." Buckley said.

Farmers should also talk to their banks, vets and farming representatives. Drought advice from DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ was useful.

Rural Trust Waikato chairman Neil Bateup said it was important farmers continued to support each other.

Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton called on stock feed companies not to put up the price of products to take advantage of farmers in the current situation.

"I believe companies are looking at profiting from farmers' desperation," he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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