A debt mediation scheme to help farmers in financial distress deal with their lenders starts today.
“This is recognition that the extreme and prolonged nature of this dry spell is taking its toll on our farmers and growers and additional support is needed,” said O’Connor.
“We know they prepare for dry conditions in January and February, but these areas have been dry since November, on the back of much lower rainfall than normal through the whole of 2019. With little rain forecast for the next couple of weeks, things are getting tough.
“Across the country there are local groups that meet regularly – made up of regional councils, industry groups, the Rural Support Trust and government agencies. They’re a key source of advice for me and the Northland group’s advice to date has been that the farmers and growers have been well prepared and coping pretty well. I let them know that if they were to ask for Government support – they would most definitely get it.
“They met again today and have said that the situation was now beyond the rural community’s ability to cope and they have requested assistance,” he said.
The additional funding is for targeted recovery assistance, helping Northland Rural Support Trust to facilitate recovery, run events to help get farmers off-farm and reduce isolation, provide education and technical advice for farmers, and provide one to one care as needed. It can also give access to social welfare for those in extreme hardship, and increased flexibility with Inland Revenue.
O’Connor says despite the challenges, the majority of Northland farmers and growers are coping reasonably well.
“People are making the hard decisions needed on culling stock, purchasing feed, prioritising crops, and switching to once-a-day milking,” he said.
“We know that farmers and growers are used to managing through adverse weather events, but I’d encourage them to make use of the great support available. Droughts can be really tough, especially on new farmers with little previous experience to lean on.
"I encourage farmers to seek support from their local Rural Support Trust, industry groups and rural professionals who can provide information about managing dry conditions.
“I’m continuing to keep a close eye on other areas across the country as dry conditions increase in much of the North Island, the top of the South Island, and northern Canterbury.”