Meeting delays declaring drought zone in Waikato

Waikato farmers will have to wait to find out whether their region will be declared a drought zone.

Waikato, like much of the North Island, is rapidly drying out, making dairy farmers in particular increasingly worried about feed supplies and falling milk production.

Less than 10% of normal rainfall was recorded in parts of Waikato, as well as Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty in January.

The Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Waikato Regional Council met on Friday and will meet again in a week to reassess if a drought should be declared.

Regional council chairperson Peter Buckley said farmers would benefit from a rural assistance programme and tax relief if a drought is declared.

Mr Buckley said some farmers are worried that if a drought is not declared they would not get assistance, but assured them that is not the case and they can get help from Work and Income if necessary.

The council's land and water quality chair, Norm Barker, said once a drought had been declared, farmers who have to dry off herds and have reduced income as a result could get some other income for living expenses.

Mr Barker said Waikato was last declared a drought zone just two years ago, and suffered drought two years before that.

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