Support events for farmers ramp up

While much of New Zealand could be forgiven for thinking the droughts are over, support is ramping up for the worst-hit farmers, whose drought recovery journey is just beginning. 

The Manawatu-Whanganui (Horizons Region) Rural Coordination Group is working together to coordinate a range of events over the next few weeks, from technical conversations about rebuilding farm systems and budget advice and information, to fun family-friendly barbeques and pool parties.
Chair of the Manawatu-Whanganui Rural Coordination Group, Chalky Leary, says that while rainfall in parts of the drought-affected North Island has provided relief to some in the Horizons Region, their focus is on supporting farmers as they work through the drought impacts and find a way forwards.
“The impact of droughts doesn’t stop with the first rainfall.  The Rural Support Trust reports there is a high level of stress in the farming community as farmers run out of feed and have to use supplementary feed designated for winter,” says Mr Leary.  “Supplementary feed growth is also only yielding about half of normal volumes.
“Looking ahead, we’re considering a workshop aimed at assisting farmers in decision making and planning for the winter. In the meantime, the group are working with Fonterra and DairyNZ who are organising a few barbeque and pool party events. The first one is planned for Tuesday 30 January from 6pm onwards at Poroutawhao School (north of Levin on SH1) who have a school pool available for families on the night. A second barbeque pool party will be held on 31 January from 6pm onwards at the Lido Palmerston North.
"These events are an opportunity for farmers to spend some time with their families, talk to others who are experiencing similar stresses at this time, and hear useful information. Farmers, workers and families should keep an eye out for more details as we firm up events and send out the information through our normal newsletters, websites and groups.” 
The group, made up of Rural Support Trusts, Ministry for Primary Industries, Civil Defence Emergency Management and representatives from Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, and Fonterra, has been meeting regularly to monitor the drought, how farmers in the Region are managing and what help and support can be offered.
Lower Horowhenua and coastal areas are of the most concern.
“There are also pockets scattered across the Region that didn’t receive any rain and can’t be forgotten about. While there has been greening of pasture, it hasn’t always resulted in growth. Some areas have recovered however the drought certainly isn’t over and there are still areas that are really struggling.”
The group aims to help farmers make the most of the remainder of the growing season and recommend they get in touch the local Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254) for assistance.
“We also highly recommend farmers have a chat to their bankers and accountants regarding their situation and see what measures can be put in place to help them recover from the financial burden of the drought. Also don’t forget Federated Farmers has activated Feedline on its website, open to both members and non-members who want to request or offer feed.”
Farmers are concerned about animal welfare so the group recommends making decisions on selling excess stock sooner rather than later. It is also best to keep an eye on possible issues such as facial eczema.
Concerns still exist regarding the risk of Mycoplasma Bovis when moving stock for grazing. MPI has produced a factsheet for farmers moving stock and feed so they can prevent further spread of the disease, and has regularly updated information on its website.  Farmers are also welcome to contact MPI directly or talk to their veterinarian.
Farmers are encouraged to contact their local Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254) or to get pointed in the right direction for advice or information, are concerned about a friend, a neighbour, a worker, or just need a private chat. Services are free and confidential.

Web address for Federated Farmers’ Feedline:
Drought definition: Droughts may happen at any time on a localised scale. The Government gets involved only when it meets the criteria for a medium or large-scale event under the Primary Sector Recovery Policy.  This is about the impacts of the drought on the primary sector. There is more about this on
The classification of drought as a medium-scale event takes into account:

  • The ability or capacity for the community to cope (economic impact, social impact).
  • The climatic conditions, including the New Zealand Drought Index and forecasting provided by NIWA, weather information, and from information provided on the ground.
  • The risk management options available for farmers to prepare for drought.
  • The magnitude of the drought (likelihood, scale of physical impact).
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O’Connor announced the classification of the drought as a medium-scale event on 23 December. The classification stands for six months and was also extended to the Buller and Grey Districts last week. While providing acknowledgement of the challenges the primary sector has been facing in this particular dry spell, it also means that extra funding can be made available to Rural Support Trusts to help their communities.