Govt warns farmers over drought

Farmers must adapt their practices if droughts become more common rather than relying on state bailouts, the Government warns.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said the Government would be unable to continuously help farmers facing drought,

His comments came this morning on TVNZ's Breakfast following claims by experts that the drought conditions, believed to be the worst in 70 years, will become more regular in the future.

As regions are declared in drought, financial support and funding for support groups is triggered.

Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Coromandel and Taupo have all been declared drought affected.

Mr English said while the Government was currently providing hardship assistance to families, farmers would have to adapt to the increasing risk of drought.

"We've got research in place for instance to find more drought resistant grasses and farmers have for years been adapting their management practices."

Mr English denied the Government was giving assistance to failing businesses in a way it did not do for other industries.

"I think we've got the balance about right - it's not supporting the business in the sense of paying their bills for them, it's just dealing with those cases involving extreme hardship.

"By and large they would be families that if they turned up to Work and Income looking for food vouchers they would get them," he said.

The Government has said the drought could cost the economy $1 billion.

It is expected by Wednesday that the Tararua, Wairarapa, Manawatu-Rangitikei and Taranaki districts will become official drought zones.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy received formal requests from the three regions to declare them in drought last week.

A spokesman for Mr Guy said the minister is considering declaring drought in more parts of the North Island this week and is keeping a close eye on the South Island.

- Kate Shuttleworth of APNZ

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