Dealing with drought conditions

Find information and resources on dealing with drought conditions, how MPI assesses the severity of dry conditions and the process for classifying droughts.


Conditions in 2016

MPI has been closely monitoring the ongoing dry conditions that have been affecting the country since December 2014. We are in regular contact with industry and Rural Support Trusts to collect and assess information.

South Island drought classification extended

The South Island drought is classified as a medium-scale adverse event. In January 2016, The Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy extended the drought classification for the east coast of the South Island until the end of June 2016. Regions included are Marlborough, Canterbury and parts of Otago (Central Otago, Dunedin and Waitaki). The regions were initially classified as in drought in February 2015 so the drought is entering its second year.

This classification activates additional recovery measures for farmers and growers in those regions.

They include MPI funding local Rural Support Trusts to provide one-on-one support for affected farmers and growers, coordinated community events and tech transfer seminars. For more information:

Inland Revenue may also provide income equalisation, late tax payments, or both to farmers and growers who are having trouble meeting their financial obligations. Farmers should discuss their tax options with their accountants if they need help or flexibility with tax matters. For more information, speak to your financial advisor or accountant.

Help is available

Every year there are periods of dry weather that can have a disruptive impact on farms and local farming communities.

It's important for individuals and farmers to be aware of what they can do to prepare for these climatic events, and that resources are available for farmers and their families to help with farm management during the drier months.

Types of support available during droughts

MPI considers a drought to be an adverse event. An adverse event is a climatic event, natural disaster or biosecurity incursion that affects the primary industries and rural communities.

Like all adverse events, a drought is classified as either localised, medium-scale or large-scale. We use this classification system to assess what recovery measures may be needed for farming families who are impacted by the event.

If MPI does not formally classify an adverse event as medium-scale or large-scale, the event is considered localised.

Support for localised events

During localised events the type of support available to farming communities includes:

  • access to New Zealand's network of charitable Rural Support Trusts that are set up throughout the country to co-ordinate drought recovery activities
  • assistance around flexibility with tax payments through Inland Revenue
  • standard hardship assistance provided by Work and Income.

More information is on the Inland Revenue and Work and Income websites.

Support for medium-scale and large-scale events

Medium-scale and large-scale events acknowledged by the Government can attract recovery measures such as additional funding for Rural Support Trusts to assist their communities with co-ordination of drought recovery activities.

During medium-scale and large-scale events, affected farmers may have access to:

  • rural assistance payments
  • income equalisation
  • technology transfer
  • community pastoral care through their local Rural Support Trust.

Find out more

Farm Management Support

Practical advice and help about managing farms during drought conditions is available from Dairy NZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Classifying droughts

Like all adverse events, a drought is classified as either:

  • localised
  • medium-scale
  • large-scale.

We use this classification system to assess what recovery measures may be needed for farming families affected by the event.

The process of classification and determining what recovery measures are needed is not only about how dry the weather has been. We also consider:

  • options available for farmers to prepare for the event
  • the likelihood and scale of the physical impact
  • the ability of the local community to cope socially and economically.

Based on that information, we advise the Minister for Primary Industries on the scale of the event. The minister then decides what support and recovery measures should be made available.

Medium-scale and large-scale events acknowledged by the Government can attract recovery measures such as additional funding for Rural Support Trusts to assist their communities. The support available during a localised event, such as tax relief assistance and standard hardship assistance, can be accessed through self-declaration.

How information is gathered

At MPI our role focuses on the level of support that may be needed in adverse events like droughts.

We gather our information by monitoring the ongoing dry conditions and keeping in regular contact with industry and:

  • Rural Support Trusts
  • regional policy agents
  • regional district councils
  • local civil defence emergency management groups
  • other government agencies.

Our networks provide us with information on how their local farming communities are dealing with the situation and whether or not support is needed from us.

Rural Support Trusts or other groups can apply to the minister for classification of an event as medium-scale or large-scale.

Based on that information, we advise the minister on the scale of the event. The minister then decides what support and recovery measures should be made available.

Making the call

It's not so much about the declaration of a drought but deciding what level of support and recovery measures are needed. An area can experience physical drought conditions but the community may still be able to cope with the impact. If and when communities reach a point where they are no longer able to cope on their own, the Government will then look to provide assistance.

In the meantime, we keep in close contact with primary industries and rural communities to collect and assess information. Part of that process is to talk to communities who tell us how they're dealing with the situation and whether or not they need government support.

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