12 Feb 2015

Drought declaration expected

9:20 am on 12 February 2015

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is expected to make an adverse events declaration for a state of drought when he visits the parched South Canterbury region today.

Dry paddocks near Ranfurly and Kyeburn in Maniototo.

Dry paddocks near Ranfurly and Kyeburn in Maniototo in Otago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The Ministry has been closely monitoring the worsening conditions in South Canterbury as well as parts of Otago and other regions extending as far north as Wairarapa.

Federated Farmers South Canterbury President Ivon Hurst said despite some light relief brought by rain in the past week, farmers regarded the region as being in drought irrespective of any declaration.

He said they haven't been told what the Minister will say this morning when he visits the region's Opuha dam which is rapidly running out of irrigation water.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ

"If an adverse event was called, we would see that as an advantage in so far as it would be an official recognition of what has been going on in South Canterbury for the last two months in a dramatic way, and actually developing from a lack of rainfall from August last year through to now," said Mr Hurst.

He said Government recognition of a state of drought would help farmers going to banks for loans to buy feed, and allow farming families who had lost their incomes to apply for financial relief.

He said rain in South Canterbury in the past week had brought some light relief and perked up winter feed crops but was nowhere near a drought breaker.

Little help

However some believe that declaring a state of drought for South Canterbury will do little to help the region's farmers financially.

Chair of South Canterbury Rural Support Trust, David Hewson said only farmers who are suffering badly will be able to receive financial assistance although it will bring recongition that the region is having a tough time.

He said farmers have been slaughtering lambs earlier than they would have liked and not milking cows because of the dry weather.

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