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Source: New Zealand Government

 The Government is stepping up its investment in drought-hit communities across the North Island with a major new drought relief package, announced today in Kaitaia by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

 “The rural sector across the North Island is currently doing it tough with significant and sustained droughts in many areas. Water is running low across the board – for drinking supplies, the primary sector and firefighting storage – and we will help our communities to get through it,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 The Government package includes:

  • $10 million to respond to immediate needs such as delivering water for consumption, sanitation, wastewater systems, stock welfare and horticulture
  • $421,000 to extend the reach of Rural Assistance Payments – which can be used to buy water
  • $2 million to support farmers and growers following today’s large-scale drought classification across the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams

This comes on top of $2 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to set up temporary water supplies for Kaitaia and Kaikohe and sits alongside Defence Force deployments to help with essential water resupply through tanker trucks and crew.

Sustained rain would be needed to break the drought in the upper North Island and no significant rainfall is forecast until May.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the longer extreme drought conditions continue, the greater the threat to water supplies that are already severely restricted in some places.

“Northland is particularly vulnerable with severe water restrictions already in place, a high number of people on water tanks, and significant areas of deprivation. We must act now to have the systems and support in place to assist communities already stressed by drought conditions and the associated water shortages,’’ Peeni Henare said.

The package will focus on solving immediate needs, which cannot otherwise be sorted out through existing sources and suppliers, and ensuring adequate water supply to North Island communities.

“Providing water for human consumption and sanitation purposes will be the highest priority,’’ Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said. 

“I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of councils to support their communities to date. With this initiative we envisage working with local councils and suppliers in Northland and other affected areas to deliver targeted solutions as required. 

“While the funding announced today is intended to address immediate water-supply issues, it also provides a timely opportunity to advance our conversations with councils about developing sustainable, resilient water service delivery models,’’ Nanaia Mahuta said.  

Today’s announcement follows recent announcements from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor extending drought classifications for the primary sector and unlocking Government recovery assistance measures for farmers and growers. 

Government support for rural sector adverse events over the past few months

  • Northland – $80,000 for Rural Support Trusts
  • Gisborne, Manawatu, Rangitikei, and Tararua districts – $150,000 for Rural Support Trusts
  • Waikato and South Auckland – $80,000 for Rural Support Trusts
  • The Government provided $200,000 to Southland after flooding in early February for a mayoral relief fund and Rural Support Trusts
  • $500,000 of Taskforce Green support was provided to Southland post floods
  • Rural Support Trusts and industry groups provide:
    • advice and help farmers deal with stock and feed issues
    • one-to-one support for farmers to ensure wellbeing and that people are looking after each other
    • to run events so farmers can come together
  • The declaration of adverse events for the above regions has also allowed for:
    • IRD to provide tax relief to those who need it
    • Rural assistance payments to farmers who can’t meet essential living needs