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Published: 2010-12-15 00:00:00

The Government’s official declaration of a drought in the Waikato has been welcomed by the regional drought committee.

Agriculture Minister David Carter made the declaration while visiting two Waikato farms today to hear first-hand from farmers the impacts of the dry weather affecting the region.

The declaration of a medium-level event for south of Auckland, the Waikato region and Ruapehu district means that current measures in place to assist Waikato farmers hit by drought will be available until further notice. These measures include welfare assistance for qualifying farmers and tax assistance, and funding for the Rural Support Trust and farm management advice.

“The Government decision is both a morale booster and a very welcome extension of practical assistance measures that had been due to expire at the end of December,” said Waikato Regional Drought Committee chairman Peter Buckley, who accompanied the minister on the farm visits.

“Many of the farmers we talked to today are struggling with managing their way through the drought, particularly as it comes on top of dry conditions and drought during recent summers,” said Mr Buckley, a North Waikato dairy farmer.

“Some are drying off early or sending stock to the freezing works, while others are facing significant costs to bring in supplementary feed at increased prices.

“We are all hoping that predictions of some rain in the reasonably near future prove correct and that the drought-related stress begins to ease.

“In the meantime, the Government’s announcement today will provide some comfort for those who are really beginning to feel the pinch and may need more active assistance.”

Mr Buckley, also chairman of Environment Waikato, said the drought committee would reconvene on Wednesday 22 December to help ensure there was a co-ordinated approach amongst various agencies and the private sector in the way they helped farmers manage through the drought. The committee was formed earlier this year amid drought conditions during late summer and early autumn.