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If a drought is assessed as a medium-scale adverse event this will mean two things:
(Other assistance from MSD and IRD is available regardless of declaration.)
Rural Support Trusts make sure the right kind of assistance is available and links people up with the right kind of help. It is a coordination and facilitation role.
The additional funding will enable them to keep doing what they do. As a drought gets bigger or goes on for longer, the community comes to the end of its resources. A declaration means that central government funding is available so they can keep going and responding to needs.
In physical terms:
During a drought farmers often receive lower incomes due to lower production, and higher costs associated with supplementary feed. This will flow through to rural service industries.
There are ongoing effects. Farmers were likely to have used feed reserves during autumn that were intended for winter and spring, and need to buy in more feed than usual.
Also, farmers may have had to destock to the extent that they have reduced capital (breeding) stock numbers and will now need to build those up again through breeding replacements, which takes several seasons.
Livestock managers need to make sure they have enough feed to meet stock demands during and following a drought, and be able to act early to address any potential shortfalls.
Drought creates challenges at many levels. In particular, it brings uncertainties which can be difficult to deal with.
As well as farm management advice and planning help for farmers, rural people might appreciate help with managing stress - which may be in the form of counselling. They need to know they are not alone.
Rural Support Trusts – Rural Support Trusts help people and families in the wider rural community who experience an adverse event like a drought to more effectively meet and overcome the challenge. MPI provides annual funding to Trusts so they can help coordinate support from the early stages. Services are free and confidential. You can contact your local Rural Support Trust representative for any information on the assistance and support available.
For Northland and North Auckland - the Northland Rural Support Trust is co-ordinating the support.
For South Auckland and Waikato - the Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust
For Bay of Plenty - the Bay of Plenty Rural Support Trust
For Hawkes Bay - the East Coast Rural Support Trust
For West Coast - the West Coast Rural Support Trust
MPI – The publication Meeting the Challenges - Key points for getting through droughts contains practical guidance for rural people, based on experience from previous droughts.
Work and Income assistance – The Ministry of Social Development, through Work and Income, can provide a range of standard financial assistance to both farming and non-farming families whose incomes have been affected by drought.
Inland Revenue Department –Tax relief and income assistance is available for farmers affected by the drought. Inland Revenue has a range of measures to help, depending on personal circumstances. If you are concerned about tax payments, changes in income or refunds, contact your tax agent or Inland Revenue's emergency helpline 0800 473 566.
Statement: Assistance to North Island and West Coast Buller and Grey districts farmers affected by drought
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne media statements: Northland drought tax relief announced (1 March) and Dunne welcomes extended drought tax relief announcement (7 March)
Banks – Rural trading banks are offering special packages for drought-affected rural businesses and will likely be initiating contact with customers.
ANZ media statement: ANZ Extends farm drought assistance package (6 March) (PDF) (PDF)
BNZ media statement: BNZ brings financial relief to drought-affected farmers (5 March)
Rabobank media statement: Rabobank support for drought-affected farmers
Westpac media statement: Westpac drought relief support
Dairy NZ – Advice on Dry summer management and Farming through drought.
Or contact the DairyNZ Farmer Information Service: 0800 4 DAIRY NZ (0800 4 324 7969)
Beef and Lamb NZ – Dry management toolkit for sheep and beef farmers – provides practical advice and coping strategies for farmers dealing with or facing the possibility of extreme dry conditions.
Facial eczema – Facial eczema occurs in warm and humid conditions, such as can occur when it rains after drought, and is a major threat to animal health and productivity.
Information: Facial eczema prevention and management
Foundation for Arable Research – FAR can provide technical advice on how best to manage this year's grain, seed and maize crops, and the likely impacts of drought conditions on establishing following crops. FAR has two staff members based in the North Island (Diana Mathers in Hawkes Bay, and Mike Parker in the Waikato).
Information: Maize cultivation and drought
For Small Blocks – There are around 140,000 small blocks in New Zealand, many running groups of livestock and they are feeling the impacts of drought. The website lifestyleblock.co.nz has some excellent information for small block holders, including the following links:
Do a feed budget to make sure there is enough feed to meet stock needs
Buy silage with care
Tree prunings as fodder
Grasslands Association – The March 2013 edition of the NZGA newsletter focuses on managing pasture through drought, including what to do after rain.
Federated Farmers – Farmer membership organisation, advocating for farmer interests. Provides a feed supply coordination service, matching people with available feed to those who need it on a national basis, when the need has been identified (when a drought has been officially declared). Federated Farmers may also organise social/information events in affected areas and facilitate contact with farm financiers regarding possible short-term support packages.
0800 DROUGHT (0800 376 844)
Ravensdown – Information on how to use fertiliser after a drought
Rural Women New Zealand - RWNZ, with support from MPI offers funding of up to $300, or more if required, for events to support rural communities. Rural Women NZ recognises that many rural people are under extra stress dealing with the effects of the drought. They will consider proposals ranging from community BBQs, musicians, entertainers and events for children, to hiring a hall or hosting a visiting speaker, etc. For more information contact Noeline Holt at Rural Women New Zealand, phone 04 473 5524 or email email@example.com.
Stress counselling – Drought upsets the normal flow of life and can be very disruptive. It affects everything usually taken for granted and it is completely normal for people to feel emotionally down and physically unwell because of the drought situation. People are not alone in feeling this way and do not have to cope alone either. Local qualified and experienced counsellors are available and will travel to the farm at no cost. This can be organised through a local Rural Support Trust or by calling Victim Support: 0800 842 846.
The Minister for Primary Industries has powers to declare medium-scale or large-scale adverse events because of drought or other natural disasters impacting the primary sectors. Note that this is not a drought declaration, but a declaration of an adverse event because of drought (and area can be in drought without any declaration).
The Minister is unlikely to declare localised events, but local authorities can do so.
The Ministry for Primary Industries' role is to assess the impact and scale of any potential adverse event affecting rural communities and the primary industries and, if appropriate, to support the Minister in declaring a medium or large-scale event.
To gain information, MPI has a team of regional policy analysts, who have networks of local contacts and monitor developments. In addition, MPI has a network of contracted policy agents who report on local developments, such as a potential adverse climatic event.
In the case of localised drought, the coordination of any support for farmers and the rural community is undertaken by local community groups and rural stakeholders. This will often be coordinated by the Rural Support Trust, with other relevant parties such as regional councils, Federated Farmers and other sector bodies getting involved.
From MPI's perspective, a drought event is "when the lack of rainfall has economic, environmental and social impact on farming businesses and families and the wider community".
MPI assesses the impact of climatic events at the community (not individual) level.
The criteria that MPI uses are:
Because there are many factors to be considered, it is possible that an area could experience a soil moisture deficit without declaration of an adverse event. For example, this might be "normal" for the area and something that people would be expected to plan for.
It's the Minister's decision as to when an adverse event declaration is lifted.
MPI assesses whether the rural communities are able to cope without special assistance and advises the Minister. This will include a range of factors such as: pasture cover and levels of available feed, soil moisture deficits, and the general ability of farmers to manage their way out of the drought impacts.
It's important to note that the Government's drought provisions are focused on the effects of the weather rather than the weather itself. The effects of any rainfall take time to work their way through farming systems.
In short, yes.
In November 2012 MPI released a report that reviews the impacts of climate change on the primary industries. Evidence shows New Zealand's temperatures are warming and weather patterns are changing. We can expect some of our weather patterns to get stronger and change to more frequent droughts and floods. In some seasons and years, yields will increase but in others production downturns will be more pronounced.
Report: Impacts of Climate Change on Land-based Sectors and Adaptation Options
Looking to the future, farmers, foresters and growers can expect a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges.
The sector needs to prepare itself to respond to ongoing climate variability. Planning for the future now, rather than using past weather conditions as a predictor, will pay dividends. Impacts will vary by sector and by region, and changes will vary farm system by farm system.
MPI has developed a toolbox of web-based resources to help sectors adapt to climate change. The focus is on: more flexibility, building more buffers into farm systems, setting fall-back positions, having a plan before a drought hits, and continually learning from drought.