New Zealand declares largest drought in 30 years

New Zealand declares most widespread drought in at least 30 years as dairy industry takes hit

Associated Press
New Zealand suffering biggest drought in 30 years
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In this photo taken on March 11, 2013, farmer Peter Brown walks on the dry ground at his dairy farm near Ohinewai, New Zealand. A drought in New Zealand’s North Island is costing farmers millions of dollars each day and is beginning to take a toll on the country’s economy. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Brett Phibbs) NEW ZEALAND OUT, AUSTRALIA OUT

CARTERTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand has officially declared its most widespread drought in at least 30 years.

The government said Friday the entire North Island is a drought zone after adding several more regions to those already designated as suffering from drought.

The official designation provides farmers some financial relief through increased government funding of rural groups and tax breaks. Farmers facing serious financial hardship will also be eligible to apply for temporary unemployment benefits.

The drought has forced dairy farmers to reduce their herds in a country which relies on the industry for export earnings. Farmers estimate the drought has so far cost them about 1 billion New Zealand dollars ($820 million).

Parts of the North Island are drier than they've been in 70 years.

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