Agriculture MInister David Carter has declared a medium level drought in the Waikato Region and Ruapehu District which is concerning not just for these areas but the wider economy.
Less production on farms means less employment not just on farms but in businesses which service and supply farms. It also means less export income. As Quote Unquote says:
Slightly more seriously, this affects everyone in New Zealand because the Waikato is the main part of the NZ dairy industry which is the main part of NZ’s exports which are what pays for our imports.
There is dairying in many other regions now but some of them are on the brink of drought too
Declaration of drought triggers government assistance but as Federated Farmers Waikato Provincial President Stew Wadey points out this doesn’t mean hand-outs to individuals.
“There is no direct financial support to farmers because of this drought declaration. It bothers me when I see letters to the editor making this false point.
“The only way a farmer will qualify for welfare is if they were already eligible for welfare payments. It’s means tested, same as any other WINZ payment, and a drought declaration makes no difference to this criteria.
“There are around 30,000 working farmers nationwide, and less than 100 are actually receiving support. But the facts of life are that with two consecutive droughts some farmers can’t survive.
“This adverse event declaration also gives us access to advisory services that are extremely beneficial for us. That’s not just farm management advice, but also counselling services and Rural Assistance Payments.
“RAPs basically advise and assist extremely marginal farmers who need to exit the business. It’s similar to a small business manager being appointed by a Ministry of Economic Development body to a struggling company in the city.
“The drought declaration also allows Inland Revenue to give farmers the ability to file accounts later, so that’s one less thing to worry about. . .
There is nothing we can do about the weather but more irrigation would help temper the worst effects of a lack of rain.
“But what I think we need to do now is work with the councils and Government on water storage options to help reduce the risk of drought in the future. You can never be too prepared.
“Basically, pasture needs three things: water, sunshine hours and decent soil temperatures.
“Rather than riding the rollercoaster trying to guess what each next season will bring, we can control these conditions much more readily with a reliable and steady supply of water.
North Otago now has sufficient area under irrigation to ensure production continues and money will keep flowing in to town. But there is potential for more irrigation in our area and in many other parts of New Zealand.
Our problem isn’t lack of water, it’s just some of the water isn’t where it’s needed, when it’s needed and storage would help solve that problem.
Irrigation isn’t as good as rain but it is far better than no water at all and the more irrigation there is, the less harm drought does to agriculture and the wider economy.