Friday, December 8, 2023

Mayoral fund targets drought relief

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The Government will provide $500,000 to the Hawke’s Bay Mayoral Drought Relief Fund, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.
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The fund was set up this week by the mayors of Central Hawkes Bay, Hastings, Napier and Wairoa, along with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, to help farmers get through the drought.

Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker and Centralines chairman Jon Nichols have pledged $50,000 each on behalf of their organisation. The other councils will announce their contributions shortly, with Hastings District Council to confirm its on Thursday.

Walker says it is important the region stands up to help farmers.

“Wage subsidies and loans are helping support businesses across the country but there is very little financial support for farming. But we are here for our farmers,” she says.

“Movement restrictions from the covid-19 lockdown, plus widespread dry across the North Island in particular has put feed in extremely short supply, and the logistics of transporting from other parts of the country is complex and sometimes costly. 

“Heading into a winter drought is a disastrous situation and even though feed is expensive, bringing it in to feed what stock is left is still the most cost-effective way of getting through.

The Civil Defence Rural Advisory Group, the lead agency for the drought response, will establish criteria and the process for distribution of the funding.

Rural Advisory Group chairman Lochie MacGillivray says he is thrilled with the support from the councils and says the fund will go a long way in boosting morale in the rural community.

“The drought relief fund will go towards establishing a secure line of transport to get feed to farms where it is most needed, and alleviate the financial burden for many farming families.”

The local government leaders behind the fund wrote to O’Connor asking the Government to match the regional fundraising, which led to its contribution.

O’Connor says mayoral relief funds help communities get back on their feet after adverse events, with local communities and councils directing funding to where it is needed most.

“Access to feed is the biggest acute issue facing drought-affected farmers right now. Feed is in very short supply in the North Island, so most has to be shipped up from the South. This funding will go towards subsidising the transport costs of getting feed up from the South Island.

“There are also a lot of heart-warming cases of farmers helping each other through community-driven feed drives, such as the donations of hay transported from the Wairarapa to Hawke’s Bay and another planned from the King Country. It’s great to see.”

The local government leaders who have established the fund are Hawke’s Bay’s Regional Council chairman Rex Graham, Napier City Mayor Kirsten Wise, Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker and Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

The funds will be held in trust by the Hawke’s Bay Disaster Relief Trust.

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