Report from BusinessDesk by Paul McBeth
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has officially declared the a drought to be across the whole of the North Island, opening up access to welfare for farmers stricken by the arid conditions.
The extension to the declaration means the rest of the North Island joins Northland, North Auckland, South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay as being official in a drought, Guy said in a statement. Some parts of the South Island, Grey and Buller districts in particular, are also being watched, and low hydro lake levels have prompted the Bluff aluminium smelter to pare back production.
“It has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions,” Guy said. “Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important to know that support is available.”
The declaration comes after Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler warned yesterday if substantial rain doesn’t arrive soon, the country could face a similar event as that in 2007/08, which shaved 1 percent from the economy. The impact so far has reduced 0.2 to 0.3 of a percentage point from gross domestic product in the first half of this year, according to central bank forecasts.
Work and Income will offer rural assistance payments, which are the equivalent of the unemployment benefit, to people in extreme hardship, and extra government funding is available to Rural Support Trusts.