MPI declares a 'medium-scale adverse event' in lower North Island. Banks roll out farm drought assistance packages

Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor has announced the fast-growing drought in parts of the lower North Island would be classified as a medium-scale adverse event.

There are three levels of ‘adverse events’ – localised, medium and large-scale. (These can cover events like droughts, floods, fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters.)

The affected areas are:

Region: Taranaki
– New Plymouth
– Stratford
– South Taranaki

Region: Manawatu-Whanganui
– Rangitikei
– Whanganui
– Manawatu
– Palmerston North
– Horowhenua

Region: Wellington
– Kapiti Coast
– Upper Hutt
– Lower Hutt
– Porirua
– Wellington

The classification gives Rural Support Trusts a $160,000 funding boost to help serve their communities, such as organising local events, arranging recovery facilitators who work one-to-one with farmers, and recovery coordination to ensure everyone’s on the same page. This funding may be increased if needed.

Other usual recovery measures, which may include tax flexibility and income assistance options, will be made available as appropriate in the New Year.

In response, banks are rolling out their support packages. 

ANZ announced a drought assistance package, which includes:

• Suspending loan principal repayments;

• Waiving fees associated with restructuring business loans considered necessary due to impacts of extreme weather;

• Waiving fees for term finance and investments which improve performance and the ability to respond to climatic variation in future years;

• Waiving the interest rate reductions associated with accessing funds on term deposits ahead of maturity date due to financial hardship; and

• Providing access to discounted short-term funding to help farmers get through the immediate challenges while also protecting their long-term productivity.

“Each farm is different, and we can offer targeted assistance, but we recognise that the situation may require more complex solutions for some,” said Mark Hiddleston, ANZ Bank’s Managing Director Commercial & Agri.

“We’d encourage farmers to act early and engage advisors to develop a plan, consulting with their bankers on funding requirements.”

While it was important for farmers to look after their businesses during difficult times, it was also important for them to look after themselves and their families.

“Farmers are used to dealing with adverse weather, but the impacts go beyond finances and are a major source of stress for some customers,” Hiddleston said.

“Serious weather events cause significant challenges and anxiety. We urge farmers to communicate regularly with their family, advisors – including their bank – and support networks.”