[10 January/ Otago Daily Times]

Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, has added the Grey and Buller Districts on the West Coast to the list of regions currently experiencing a medium-scale drought.  The declaration means that the local Rural Support Trust and other recovery organisations are able to access a funding boost.  Minister O’Connor declared 13 districts in drought across the South of the North Island just prior to Christmas as a wet winter has turned into a very dry start to summer.  In a statement, he noted, that on the back of a very wet winter which left many farmer unable to grow pasture or crops for spring, the early and unusually dry start to the summer turned West Coast pastures from swamp to concrete. It was noted that MPI is currently reviewing its drought policy framework with a new policy expected to be in place by the middle of the year.