24 March 2020

As drought grips many parts of the country, the ongoing challenges faced by farmers in Bay of Plenty have prompted the Bay of Plenty Primary Sector Coordination Group (PSCG) to draw on recently released Government funding.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor last week classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event, unlocking up to $2 million in Government funding to support farmers and growers from now until June 2021.

Miles Mander, chair of the Primary Sector Coordination Group (PSCG) and Bay of Plenty Rural Support Trust said that primary industry representatives and agencies had been monitoring the drought situation in the Bay of Plenty for several months.

“We were about to request drought classification for the BOP to support farmers and growers when the Minister made the announcement, which includes the BOP.”

“This drought package provides funding to the Trust to ramp up its support to farmers and growers who are struggling with the drought conditions. I encourage farmers who are finding the going tough and need help, or know someone that does, to get in touch with the Trust for a confidential chat and some guidance from one of the team.”

Drought classification also unlocks access to IRD’s Tax Equalisation Scheme and Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) to help families in extreme hardship. The Rural Support Trust can support applying for RAPs which are the equivalent of the jobseekers’ allowance.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, PSCG industry stakeholders’ BBQ events had been cancelled. “Now is the time to get creative and find alternative ways to support those affected by drought in these changing times,” said Miles.

BOP Provincial Federated Farmers President Darryl Jensen said that while current conditions were putting a real strain on farmers, with support they would come out the other side.

“Bay of Plenty farmers are resilient but this drought seems never-ending with no decent rain forecast. We’ve had droughts in the past and the one thing that we know is that you have to make decisions early on what you can control. Have a plan in place, check on stock grazed off farm, do a feed budget, and seek advice from your rural professionals, your bank manager, and accountant.”

Te Puke Fruit Growers Association member Paul Edkins said it wasn’t just farmers affected.

“Orchardists are feeling the strain too with younger kiwifruit vines struggling, especially where they don’t have irrigation. Even some established vines without irrigation are collapsing. The impact of this drought is across sectors.”

A Ministry for Primary Industries Animal Welfare spokesperson said that lifestyle blocks are a particular concern during drought, especially those without reticulated water.

“Even people with a few animals need to make a plan to ensure they have feed and water if it doesn’t rain.”

“It’s really tough for lifestylers who have animals as pets, but the hard facts are that if you can’t look after the needs of your animals you need to find somewhere else for them to go. So we encourage animal owners to talk to experts, vets, feed suppliers, and advisors, and know what their options are to care for their animals until the rains come back.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council are monitoring water levels across the region, but at this stage there’s been no Water Shortage Direction issued.

“The health of some of our waterways, especially in the western Bay of Plenty, is at risk because of record low flow levels. Everyone can help to protect waterway health and delay the need for extra restrictions by checking for leaks, reducing water use, and complying with Regional Council rules and consent conditions,” said Steve Pickles, Bay of Plenty Regional Council Water Shortage Event Manager.

“At the moment people are still allowed to still take up to 15 m3/day from streams, but this may not be the case if flows continue to drop. People taking water from streams should consider reducing their pumping rate – that way they can draw the same amount of water but over a longer time period, so that the impact on stream flows is reduced,” Mr Pickles said.

Live monitoring data including soil moisture, groundwater and stream flow levels is available at www.boprc.govt.nz/livemonitoring.

Contact numbers and resources for farmers: