19 Mar 2013

Fewer than 12 farmers sign for drought package

11:39 pm on 19 March 2013

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says fewer than a dozen people have signed up for the Government's rural assistance package for drought relief.

But a Rural Support Trust coordinator says it's early days yet.

Mr Guy says he's not surprised there's been a slow uptake because farmers are resilient people and are not interested in a handout.

But the coordinator of the Northland Rural Support Trust, Julie Jonker, says it's just the beginning.

She says people are still coming to terms with the drought and only in the past couple of weeks have farmers been drying off their herds.

Ms Jonker says Northland did not get a lot of rain in the recent downpour and she expects more farmers will begin applying for help.

Limited options

Some of those Northland farmers say that though the current drought's not the worst they've suffered, they have fewer options to manage its effects because it's North Island-wide.

Whangarei Federated Farmers president, Matt Long, says farmers can't send their stock south for grazing as they've done in earlier droughts, because other regions are just as affected.

And he says feed options are dwindling.

There's now no palm kernel available on the spot market because of high demand.

Mr Long says he's already dried off more than a third of his dairy herd on his Tutukaka farm - and he's about to dry off more.

He says he's heard from his Waikato counterpart that half the dairy herds in that region are now dried off while in Northland, the figure is about 10%.


Further south, farmers in the Wairarapa and Tararua regions are hoping heavy rain will be enough to start breaking the grip of drought on those areas.

The Tararua District received 100 millimetres of rain overnight on Monday.

Sharemilker Neil Filer said that meant he's likely to get 60 more days of milking from his herd.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president Jamie Falloon said that region has received 60 to 100mm of rain, much more than had been expected.

Mr Falloon said it had broken the drought in his area and if more rain falls it will help with grass growth.

In the South Island, rural support, farmer and Ministry for Primary Industries representatives are meeing in Nelson to assess the impact of rain in that region over the past two days.

Nelson had been drying off quickly but unlike the South Island's West Coast it had not reached the stage of seeking a drought declaration.

The West Coast has had little benefit from the rain which in the 24 hours to Tuesday had ranged from only 8mm in parts of the Grey Valley to 30mm at Inangahua.