15 Mar 2013

First South Island region asks for drought help

8:35 pm on 15 March 2013

TheWest Coast has become the first region in the South Island to request to be officially declared in drought.

The decision was made at a meeting of rural and local body representatives on Friday morning, just hours after the Government extended its official drought declarations to cover the entire North Island.

The West Coast is normally one of the wettest parts of the country.

The West Coast Drought Committee agreed with some farmers who have been in the region for more than 60 years saying they have never seen anything like it.

Federated Farmers West Coast president Katie Milne says the Ministry for Primary Industries has had its eye on the region but it could be two weeks before a decision is made.

She says getting a declaration now is urgent.

"It's a pretty severe situation here actually. Pretty hard times for farmers when you're scratching around trying to find enough feed for animals and you've got to remember to look out for yourself and your health, and your neighbours as well."

Ms Milne says the soil moisture deficit is as great on the West Coast as in the North Island and the soil there drains quickly.

She says whatever happens, it is important for farmers to think of a feed budget for the next few months now, as most have already started using their winter feed.

Mike Havill says declaring the region as a state of drought won't help his quickly drying farm.

Mr Havill says it's a frustrating time for him and many other farmers in the region.

He says it will take a long period of good growing conditions with warmth and moisture for conditions on his farm to improve.

However, he says it is good that resources are there to help from the regional support network.