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Aid for drought-stricken farmers

The Government has approved aid to farmers hit by drought in the lower North Island, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Federated Farmers had asked for drought relief and recovery assistance measures for farmers and orchardists in Taranaki, Wanganui, Rangitikei, Manawatu, Horowhenua, and Tararua.

Mr Sutton said the Government had agreed to match community contributions of up to $8000 to pay for a rural co-ordinator. This person will assist farmers in handling the effects of the drought and provide support through difficult times.

He was seeking support from Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey and Cabinet for Rural Sector Assistance for farming families in the affected areas. This would mean that those families could access social welfare benefits to cover for the time when they will not have income.

Mr Sutton said he has also written to Revenue Minister Michael Cullen to ask him to recommend to Inland Revenue district commissioners to approve adverse events income equalization for farm businesses in the affected areas. "These latter two measures should be in force shortly."

Mr Sutton said rural communities and the primary production sector were important to New Zealand and the Government recognised this, by providing funding at times of natural disasters and adverse climatic conditions.

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