New Zealand suffers ‘most widespread’ drought in 30 years
New Zealand is suffering its most widespread drought in 30 years. Climate scientists are warning that New Zealand may need to change its approach to farming as a result, according to the Washington Post. The scientists predict that water resources will become more stretched, and farming dairy cows might be unviable in future in some parts of the country. Drought resistant crops, such as grapes, and other species might have to replace the cows, scientists have said. ‘The drought is costing farmers millions of dollars each day, and is beginning to take its toll on the economy’, says the Post. Parts of New Zealand’s North Island are the driest they have been for 70 years; some areas have had little rain since October 2012. Famers estimate the drought has cost them around $US 850 million in lost export earnings. Recently, the New Zealand government officially declared a drought throughout the entire North Island. Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs), the equivalent of the New Zealand unemployment benefit, are being made available to farmers in the worst-affected areas. Farmer organisations, such as Beef + Lamb, Dairy New Zealand and Federated Farmers, are providing their members with practical support. The government may extend this assistance to parts of the South Island as well. The lack of rain is affecting urban areas as well. Wellington, the nation’s capital, faces a serious water shortage. Not everyone is complaining, according to the Post. Winegrowers expect a bumper crop and bars and cafes are reporting increased patronage. New Zealand economists estimate that the drought could shave 1% off the country’s economic growth. Despite the drought, the government says it will still meet its budget goal for a return to surplus by 2014.