The Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group has broadened the eligibility criteria of the regional drought relief fund to support more farmers.

Lochie MacGillivray, co-chair of the Rural Advisory Group, says the fund was set up in response to one of the most complicated and prolonged droughts in living memory and to support the cost of transporting feed to farms.

“We are pleased the criteria has been expanded to assist more farming families who were impacted by the drought.  We’ve increased individual grants and will be able to help those farmers who brought supplementary feed early. While the meteorological drought is over, it has been a long, and tough few months, and we hope this is seen as a welcome boost.”

Farmers are now eligible for a one-off grant of $1,000 (up from $400) for properties between 20 and 150 hectares, and $3,000 (up from $1,500) for properties greater than 150 hectares.

Farmers can now claim funding from March 12 this year when the Ministry for Primary Industries declared the drought an adverse event. This allows those who had bought feed in early to obtain the financial support.

Farmers can also claim for funding assistance if they transported stock to properties outside of Hawke’s Bay for grazing purposes and then back on farm, and the cost of transport will be covered for farmers who have received donated feed.  Farmers will though, only be able to make one claim for either the cost of transporting feed or stock.

The Rural Advisory Group will top up the individual grants of farmers who have already applied for the fund to match the levels under the new criteria, and they will receive notification by email.

The group revised the fund criteria after a lower than expected uptake by farmers.

“When we set up the fund in May this year, we wanted to make sure that we could support as many people as possible, and so made the criteria a little tighter than we needed to,” said Mr MacGillivray.

There is just over $481,000 remaining in the fund. Farmers have until September 30 this year to apply for a grant. Farmers can only apply once for a grant.

The fund secured $1 million from the Ministry for Primary Industries, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Centralines, and Hastings District Council. A Give a Little campaign has so far raised $15,000 that will also contribute to the fund.

To apply for the fund, go to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council website and search #droughtrelief.

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