7 Apr 2010

Regional council vows to put people before rivers

5:39 pm on 7 April 2010

The head of the Northland Regional Council says if drought continues in the north, the council will have to choose between the health of rivers and the health of people.

Chairman Mark Farnsworth says Northland is taking a double hit this autumn from recession and drought.

Farmers have been forced to spend their discretionary income on feed for their animals and the impact on the region's ecomony will be severe.

Mr Farnsworth says the regional council will not deny water to them or to Northland communities, on the basis of low river levels.

He says councils will have to start trucking water into some communities within weeks, if there's no rain.

If it comes to a choice, Mr Farnsworth says the regional council will put the needs of people and livestock before that of fish and other fauna in the rivers.

Meanwhile, a Northland farming leader says the drought is now affecting land values and retailers.

Bill Guest, of Farmers of New Zealand, believes the drought was the tipping point for the recent mortgagee sale of a Kaipara farm at $2 million below valuation.

He says the drought has compounded the stress of recession.

Mr Guest also says the drought is no longer confined to Northland. It is also affecting Rodney, the Hauraki Plains and parts of Waikato.