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Hawke's Bay farmers seek drought help

Wednesday 6 Mar 2013 7:15 a.m.

Hawke's Bay farmers struggling amidst the driest spell in decades want the Government to declare a drought - the third region to seek a declaration of drought in less than two weeks.

The agriculture industry and local government met in Napier on Tuesday and agreed to request drought assistance, after the driest six months since 1952.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills - himself a Hawke's Bay farmer - says the situation is increasingly concerning.

"Winter's not too far away and if we don't get rain soon, we're going to be [in] September, October before we have any decent cover," he told Firstline.

Mr Wills says farmers are selling stock much earlier than they normally would, and at lighter weights, and drought across the country has already cost an estimated $1 billion in exports.

"When a drought gets this serious, it's the next few weeks that can really start to add to that number."

He says farmers support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage project, backed by Hawke's Bay Regional Council, which is awaiting resource consent.

"It just makes sense. For all of us here in Hawke's Bay, we get plenty of rain but the problem is it comes at the wrong time of year - we get more rain than we need in the winter, at this time of year we suffer with not enough."

A Government drought declaration means farmers in extreme circumstances will be able to get tax relief and special welfare payments.

Hawke's Bay's plea follows a request from Waikato farmers and local government for a drought declaration last week.

A drought has already been declared in Northland.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said it was likely droughts would be declared in other areas given the dry conditions across the North Island.

On Tuesday, Bank of New Zealand has announced a low-interest overdraft facility of up to $100,000 for farmers affected by drought, and up to $10,000 in emergency family funding.

NZN

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