A state of drought has been officially declared in Northland.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy made the announcement
at a Dargaville dairy farm this afternoon.
"This is recognition that we are now beyond what is a normal
dry summer, and into an extreme climatic event. The entire
North Island is extremely dry, but Northland is one of the
"The declaration of a medium-scale event means that extra
Government funding will now be available to coordinate
support through local organisations like the Rural Support
Trusts. In extreme cases there will also be Rural Assistance
Payments available to farmers in severe hardship."
Mr Guy said the decision came after receiving advice from the
Ministry for Primary Industries, including soil moisture data
from NIWA, and in consultation with the local community.
The drought announcement applies to the area north of the
Auckland Harbour Bridge.
"We are closely watching other parts of the North Island
which are extremely dry, in particular the Waikato and Hawkes
Bay," Mr Guy said.
"Support is also available from Government agencies in all
regions, even without a drought declaration. Farmers should
contact IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax
payments, and standard assistance is available from the
Ministry of Social Development.
"Farmers have been taking practical steps to deal with the
dry, such as destocking and switching to once-a-day milking.
It's important to plan ahead and to ask for help when
Mr Guy said the Ministry for Primary Industries is working
with Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, and
DairyNZ to assist farmers.
Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker said
most areas in Northland had been without rain, and none was
forecast for the next fortnight.
Ms Jonker said milk production had fallen rapidly as farmers
moved to once-a-day milking.
The last official droughts in the region were declared in
January and December 2010.
WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said a number
of regions of the North Island had reached the tipping point
of drought criteria, with the north and east the most badly
"It's really the North Island that's having a tougher time
this year because it isn't as well equipped for dry weather
as much of the east of the South Island is."
The rain had failed to come because of a big high over the
country - and the next possibility of rain was almost two
weeks from now, when there was a chance of a subtropical low.
"We're hoping it will bring rain to the north and the east
especially of the North Island."
But Mr Duncan said there was still a risk the low could come
down the wrong coastline, which meant the rain could be even
"A lot rides on this chance of rain because if this low
fails, that could cause some significant issues for the dairy
farming sector in particular.
"But it's still too early to be getting too grim about it,
because summer weather usually lasts until mid to late
An anticyclone that has brought the dry weather to the
country is expected to ease in the next few days bringing
light rain to some areas, MetService said today.
A subtropical low is expected to pass across the east of the
North Island on Friday and Saturday, bringing moderate relief
to Gisborne and northern Hawkes Bay, said meteorologist
After the weekend, another another anticyclone was likely to
move over the country, bringing more dry conditions for at
least the early part of next week.
"Unfortunately, decent rain is not yet on the horizon," he
Prime Minister John Key yesterday said one of the big risks
was that people's livelihoods were tied up in their farms.
"Through weather conditions they can't control, their
livelihood is severely challenged and that can be very
depressing for people. We just try and make sure there's an
outreach programme of support so they don't feel isolated and
Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley said the
situation had been getting more critical since its drought
committee met late last week.
Farmers had been coping reasonably well, but something needed
to be done as it got more serious.