12 Mar 2013

Workshops, meetings to help farmers cope

4:27 pm on 12 March 2013

The dairy industry and farmers' groups are running a series of drought workshops and other meetings for farmers to help them cope.

The Government has warned that drought conditions affecting much of the country will have a negative effect on the economy and on the Government's books.

Finance Minister Bill English says it is too early to say how big an impact the drought will have but some economists are predicting the drought will take between $500 million and $1 billion out of the economy.

Official drought zones have been declared in Northland, Auckland, Waikato including Taupo and Coromandel, Bay of Plenty including Rotorua, and Hawke's Bay.

Requests have gone to the Government to declare a state of drought in Taranaki, Manawatu-Rangitikei, Whanganui-Ruapehu and Gisborne, and Wairarapa is deciding whether to seek a declaration.


Dairy NZ's North Waikato regional leader Duncan Smeaton is running seven workshops in that area and says they are designed to simplify many issues which the drought throws up for farmers.

Mr Smeaton says it's vital farmers keep in mind there are rational decisions they can make which will help them take control of the situation - rather than the drought controlling them.

He says that farmers were well prepared for this drought - but the scale of it has meant stock has rapidly chewed its way through stores of supplementary feed.

He says farmers do have a range of options to help them "future-proof" their farms against drought.

The Rural Support Trust's East Coast regional coordinator, David Scott, says farmers in his area have learnt valuable lessons from past droughts.

Federated Farmers is also planning some "Big Dry" meetings for farmers and rural businesses in Waikato later this week.

Provincial president James Houghton says in the 2008 and 2010 10 droughts, staging meetings for farmers and rural communities to talk about budgeting and to share knowledge and resources was helpful.

Meetings will be held on Friday at Orini in North Waikato, Te Awamutu, Pio Pio and Putaruru and on Monday at Tatuanui.

And Federated Farmers is also building a "farming in drought" theme into farm open days planned for later this month.

They will be at Pauatahanui near Wellington and in the Rotorua area on Sunday, and at Papamoa near Tauranga the following weekend.