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Canterbury farmers to MPI - get out here and help

Jessica Dermody
Hutchinson farm.
Hutchinson family farm - Banks Peninsula.   Hutchinson family.

NIWA reports below average rainfall for an already dry Canterbury and farmers are waiting to see promised help from MPI.

Canterbury farmers are crying out for help.

And the situation only looks to be getting worse.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has predicted below normal rainfall in Canterbury for the coming months.

The Government may have boosted its drought support in April, but farmers are yet to see the benefit of an extra $900,000 to help those across the country affected by dry conditions.

One of those farmers is Mark Hutchinson, whose home is about 1000ha on the south side of the Banks Peninsula.  

“My biggest fear is if we get a bad weather event for two or three weeks, we’ll be in trouble and it’s not the advice we need, it’ll be to get feed here as soon as possible,” Hutchinson said.

That advice - a feed planning service from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) - supports farmers who need help doing feed budgets to get them through winter.

But budget planning isn’t a realistic option, said Hutchinson.

“You can’t do feed budgets properly on this country… because who knows what next month is going to do, or what the next three months are going to do."

MPI also offers a feed co-ordination service to help farmers who are short of feed source supplementary feed or grazing for their livestock.

But the support is yet to take the pressure off.

Hutchinson’s suggestion is simple.

“Those people need to get out and actually see what’s going on.”

MPI has promised more people will be out on the ground.

MPI’s director for rural communities and farming support, Nick Story, said recovery and resilience coordinators will be employed to help support Rural Support Trusts and industry groups.

It’s anticipated the South Island will get one or two coordinators.

However, MPI has not released when these people will get their gumboots on.

At the other end of the South Island, mental health advocate and semi-retired farmer, Doug Avery, also has his fingers crossed the heavens will open.

The Avery family farm, Bonavaree, is a 2400ha farm south of Blenheim. 

Avery reported it had rained there momentarily on Wednesday.

“It’s celebration mode here, but it’s sad when you celebrate 4 millilitres [of rain],” said Avery.

It was a “band aid” in the grand scheme of things, he said.

Avery farmed through a similar drought situation about 20 years ago, which contributed to a mental breakdown.

Now, the accomplished author of ‘The Resilient Farmer’ and speaker, offers his advice to other struggling farmers.

You can’t change the equation of a lack of water, and while you must look after your farm and your stock, what’s most important is looking after yourself, Avery said. 

He encourages farmers to stick together, talk often, and get away from the farm to exercise and check on mates.

Hutchinson and the farmers of Banks Peninsula are already onto it, with eight of the ten land owners in the area meeting to discuss their options and most importantly – check how everyone’s doing.

“Everyone’s as prepared as what they can be,” said Hutchinson.

Government drought support remains in place until November 30, 2021.

Farmers who need wellbeing support should call their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP or 0800 787 254.

Feed planning support can be accessed by phoning 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352) or 0800 4 Dairy NZ (0800 432 479 69).

People who need support are encouraged to contact feed coordinator Kate Wood on 027 455 5204 or

Farmers who need wellbeing support should call their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP or 0800 787 254. 

NIWA Seasonal climate outlook May - July 2021
NIWA Seasonal climate outlook May - July 2021 NIWA