30 Sep 2013

Drought finally over

8:29 pm on 30 September 2013

The drought - which was extended to help farmers through winter - is officially over.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy made the formal declaration on Monday, saying rural communities have bounced back strongly from the worst drought in 70 years.

He says winter's warm temperatures and decent rainfall made for good farming conditions across the country, helping the recovery.

Mr Guy says 146 people accessed the rural assistance payments, with $814,277.32 paid out in drought welfare.

He says a further $320,000 was paid to the Rural Support trusts, which provide support and guidance to farmers.

The official end to the drought was timed for the end of September, so hard-hit farmers could access assistance throughout winter.

Rain came in autumn

Autumn rain finally washed away the long spell of hot, dry weather that desiccated the North Island and parts of the South Island, but the official drought declaration had remained in place.

The ongoing drought declaration has allowed for financial and other assistance for farmers hit hard by the drought to continue, and has also enabled funding for rural support services.

Mr Guy says 30 September was chosen as farmers are through winter and the first part of spring.

The ministry says it believes the drought cost the country well over $1 billion in lost primary sector revenues - and that's just to the end of June.

It says the true cost will be higher as the drought will affect agricultural production for seasons' to come - as farmers were forced to send breeding stock to the works.

The Ministry for Primary Industries also warns farmers they should expect more droughts in the future as the planet warms due to climate change, and more floods too.

It was late February this year when Minister Nathan Guy declared that Northland and north Auckland were in a state of drought.

By late March, the zone was extended to include the entire North Island as well as the Buller and Grey Districts on the South Island's West Coast.