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The Minister for Primary Industries needs to officially declare a drought and enable support for farmers in Otago and Southland, Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says.

“The situation is serious and I have written to Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor urging him to declare a drought and enable some short term relief for our farmers,” Mr Walker says.

“NIWA’s Drought Index shows that most of Otago and Southland is either already in drought or headed towards it without substantial rain soon.

“I’ve spent the past two weeks travelling around the Clutha-Southland electorate checking in with farmers and chatting to them about how they’re coping. While they have been handling the dry conditions reasonably well over the past couple of months, my offices in Gore, Balclutha and Queenstown have started to see a huge increase in inquiries from farmers concerned about the conditions over the past two weeks.

“Most farmers prepare for drought in advance, but the early onset of dry conditions this summer is starting to pose huge problems. Everyone, from farm owners to share-milkers, is beginning to come under severe financial pressure.

“I spoke to one farmer, in his sixties, who told me it’s the worst drought he’s ever experienced, others I’ve spoken to are getting rid of stock – it’s soul-destroying to watch.

“The Government needs to act immediately and support these farmers.”

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