SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) to the
Minister of Agriculture: What reports has he received on drought conditions throughout New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture)
: The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has been providing me with regular updates on the developing dry conditions on the East Coast of both the North Island and the South Island over the last several months. Until very recently, dry weather has meant that conditions have deteriorated in many of those areas and a high number of farming families are facing extremely tough conditions. As such, in recent weeks I have declared medium-level droughts in Gisborne, Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, the Bay of Plenty, Taihape, Wairarapa, and North Canterbury.
Shane Ardern: What do these drought declarations mean?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Declaring a medium-level drought means that Government officials can provide a number of vital recovery measures for financially and emotionally stressed farmers. These include tax flexibility under the Income Equalisation Scheme, funding for rural support trusts to provide welfare and counselling to affected farm families, and funding for field days and publications to give advice on drought management options. The declarations are also an important psychological step in demonstrating to affected farmers that they have this Government’s full support.
Shane Ardern: Why are droughts being declared now, when we are heading into winter and some of the wettest months of the year?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The recent rain has simply been too late for these drought-affected areas. Plummeting soil temperatures mean that grass will not grow, and farmers have been left desperately short of feed. Even with sustained heavy rain over coming weeks the outlook is bleak, and making matters worse is the fact that many of these
farmers have endured back-to-back droughts for the last 3 years and are now suffering from the cumulative effects of those tough conditions.
Hon Jim Anderton: Has the National Drought Committee, established by the previous Government, met yet on these issues; if so, what recommendations or initiatives is it advocating?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The National Drought Committee has been meeting on a regular basis, including today, and I visited it about an hour or so ago. It is happy with the initiatives that the Government has taken to date. I seek leave to table two maps that demonstrate quite clearly the effect of the drought around New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is none.
- Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.