13 Feb 2015

Stress greatest concern in Marlborough

10:24 am on 13 February 2015

The Rural Support Trust for the top of the South Island says farmers will welcome the official recognition of a drought, as stress levels are beginning to climb.

Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, yesterday declared a medium scale adverse event for most of Otago, all of Canterbury and Marlborough.

He made the announcement in South Canterbury and said this week local groups including Rural Support Trusts and Federated Farmers, acknowledged the need of medium scale recovery measures to deal with the consequence of the drought.

The declaration means extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts who work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance and will also allow farming families who lose their incomes to apply for financial support.

The Rural Support Trust co-ordinator for the top of the South Island Ian Blair said the region had been quietly suffering from drought conditions, which is not unusual for Marlborough.

But he said it was starting to affect people's well being.

"The stress level at the present time, I think is the one which is probably the most problematic and it's stressful not only in terms of what's happening with the climate but it's also stressful in terms of market returns because market returns have gone down for both traditional meat and wool farmers and it's also gone down for dairy industry in terms of what is going to be the pay out this year, so people are under a lot of pressure and they will survive only if they've got the right mental state of mind.

"People are anxious, they're stressed, not necessarily in terms of how we understand mental stress but there is a lot of pressure out there, not only on the farmers but of course on the farming families as a whole."

Central Otago is one of the areas recognised as being in a state of drought.

Andrew Paterson, from Matakanui Station, nestled against the Dunstan Range north of Alexandra, said Central was always dry in summer and he was a little surprised the region had been included in the recognised drought zone at this stage.

However, he said it had dried off a lot earlier than usual and he and his neighbours had been on irrigation restrictions since the end of last year.

"We were already in survival mode some time ago anyway. The only thing that's made it a little bit more difficult is the store lamb price in the market crashing. So we've still got ewes and lambs unweaned, out on the hill country."

Mr Paterson said the area has had some rain in the past week or so but hot temperatures and norwesterly winds have sucked up most of that moisture.

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