Dealing with drought conditions

Find information and resources on dealing with droughts and how MPI assesses the severity of dry conditions.

Top of the South Island drought

On 12 March 2019, the Government announced the medium-scale drought classification for the Tasman district would be extended to cover Marlborough, Buller, and Nelson.

Government media release – Beehive website

12 February: Medium-scale event announced – Beehive website

Find out more

Resources to help farmers and growers cope in droughts

Keeping track of conditions

How we classify droughts 

Like all adverse events, a drought is classified as either localised, medium-scale, or large-scale.

MPI doesn’t declare droughts. Rather, we work with local stakeholders when there is a drought and determine how it should be classified, based on its impact on the rural sector.

MPI's role focuses on the level of support that may be needed in drought events. The Government uses the classification system to assess what recovery measures may be needed for farming families that are impacted by the drought. If MPI doesn't formally classify an adverse event as medium-scale or large-scale, it is considered localised. 

Help is available

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

You need to be aware of what you can do to prepare for these climatic events. Also, you should know what resources are available for farmers and their families to help with farm management during the drier months.

Support for localised events

During localised events, the 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 coordinate drought recovery activities
  • assistance around flexibility with tax payments through Inland Revenue
  • standard hardship assistance provided by Work and Income.

Tax relief assistance and standard hardship assistance can be accessed through self-declaration.

More information is available on the websites of Rural Support Trusts, Inland Revenue, and Work and Income.

Rural Support Trusts

Income equalisation scheme – Inland Revenue website

Emergency benefits – Work and Income website  

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 coordination 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.

Keeping track of conditions

MPI works with local stakeholders and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to monitor conditions around the country and their impact on rural communities.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) with the support of MPI developed the New Zealand Drought Index. The tool monitors the drought status of every district in the country and is one of the criteria that MPI takes into account to classify events.

Find out more about the index – NIWA website

Read the Government's media release about the index – Beehive website

The NZ Drought Index – NIWA website  

Weekly NIWA update available 

NIWA also produces Hotspot watch – a weekly update describing soil moisture across the country. This helps assess whether severely to extremely dry conditions are occurring or are imminent.

Check NIWA's Hotspot Watch  

Who to contact

If you have questions about the drought information on this page, email

Find out more

Rural Support Trusts website

Government assistance for climatic events and natural disasters impacting on-farm [PDF, 361 KB]

Dry summer management – Dairy NZ website  

Extreme dry fact sheet – Beef+Lamb website 

How you can get help

Adverse events resources

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