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Published: 2013-02-22 00:00:00

A Waikato Regional Drought Committee has been formed to help manage the response to dry weather conditions in the region which have been causing significant problems for farmers and led to water restrictions.

The decision was made at a meeting today convened by Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley.

“We want to make sure we manage this situation tightly and be ready to ramp up the response as required,” said Mr Buckley.

“This committee will help us work together closely to make sure we get the right mechanisms in place to provide support to those affected in a timely way.”

The meeting today was attended by central government and council officials, Federated Farmers, the Rural Support Trust, Dairy NZ, and representatives from other organisations.

The meeting heard that climatic conditions were, in many Waikato areas, on par with the drought of 2008, with lower than normal rainfall and soil moisture, and low river flows.

However, there were a range of comments suggesting that, while many farmers were under significant stress, the farmer welfare situation wasn’t as bad as the same time in 2008, with more feed having been available.

“Everyone recognises the stress that farmers are under and the potential need to increase support measures if the dry weather continues,” said Mr Buckley.

“But at this stage we’re holding off from seeking a formal drought declaration until we see how the situation evolves.

“We’ll review the situation at another committee meeting in a week’s time or earlier if required.”

In the meantime, farmers are being advised to approach the Rural Support Trust, their bank or WINZ if they are facing problems. They are also being advised to follow the dry weather advice of their industry organisations such as Dairy NZ.

“Another important thing is for farmers to support farmers by keeping an eye on their neighbours and helping each other out during these tough times.

“We’ve seen a number of droughts and dry spells in the region in recent years and it’s important that we all work together to manage our way through them,’ said Mr Buckley.