Farmers may request drought relief soon

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014

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Waikato farmers are taking the first steps toward asking the Government to declare another drought.

Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton called for the region's drought committee to reconvene to discuss how bad things are and see whether the Government needed to be asked to help.

"We need to get together and people need to start communicating. The conditions in some places are worse than last year when a drought was declared so we just need to make sure that people have resources."

The committee, made up of farming industry representatives, the regional council and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), assesses the situation and calls on the Government to declare a drought if it is deemed farmers need assistance.

A drought declaration would then trigger aid packages to farmers.

Rural Support Trust chairman Neil Bateup said he had not yet spoken to Mr Houghton but agreed the committee needed to reconvene.

"Things are different to where they were last year. We have had a better spring and there's a lot more supplementary feed around. We will meet and see where we go from there."

The 10-day forecast is for sunshine with temperatures remaining in the mid 20s but Mr Bateup said he was praying for a tropical cyclone.

"It is pretty fair to say we are dry or very dry," DairyNZ regional leader Wade Bell said. "The north area is drier again. It's pretty serious.

"We are seeing farmers feeding 30 to 50 per cent in supplement and that's been raising steadily over the last two or three weeks."

Te Pahu farmer Noldy Rust said farmers in his part of the region described themselves as being in drought.

"Some people are saying we don't need another drought but I was talking to three or four farmers [yesterday] who are saying they are in drought. They are worse off than last year. Most people have got feed reserves."

MPI North Island regions manager, Stuart Anderson, said they were monitoring the situation but it appeared farmers were handling the current conditions well.

"Waikato had a good spring and as a result there is a lot more feed available than last year and farmers are reportedly handling the conditions by planning and making decisions early.

"From our assessment of the information and advice we have received to date, dry conditions are localised in parts of the Waikato and do not meet the MPI criteria for a region-wide issue."

Meanwhile, Matamata-Piako District Council has revised the water alert for Te Aroha to level 3, meaning sprinklers are now banned in the town because the water supply was under extreme pressure.

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Hamilton remains at alert level 2 but City Waters manager Andrew Parsons said things could change and the situation would be reviewed tomorrow.

Waikato District and Waipa District councils are also at water alert level 2.

Wymer Domestic Water Carriers' Bob Wymer said he was almost as busy as he had ever been.

Raglan Water's Peter Storey said he was having one of his busiest summers yet.

"It's just full on at the moment."

- Waikato Times

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