NZ suffers worst drought in 30 yearsNew Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz, Friday March 15, 2013 - 13:18 EDT
The New Zealand Government has announced that the entire North Island is now officially in a state of drought.
Drought has been declared in ever more regions of the North Island over the past four weeks.
The Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy, has announced on Friday that the whole of the island is officially drought-stricken, with farmers facing their worst conditions in 30 years.
Parts of the usually rain-soaked South Island are now on drought-watch.
Federated Farmers spokesman Tony Wilding, who runs a farm in the dairy heartland of Waikato on the North Island, says the impact on farmers has been devastating.
"It's as dry as it ever has been since 1942," he said.
"We've got 30 years of records and none of them come close to this."
Mr Wilding says his farm has had only 23 millimetres of rain this year - an eighth of the average rainfall.
Milk production is down by a fifth in some areas, stock feed is being transported from the South to the North Island, and farmers are selling their animals.
Drought has already cost the country an estimated $1 billion.
© ABC 2013
More breaking news
Severe thunderstorms that ravaged the Hunter region and the Central Coast of New South Wales are over, the Bureau of Meteorology says, but Ausgrid and SES volunteers are still working to repair the damage.
More than 12,000 insurance claims have already been lodged with damages at an estimated $31 million following the .
Southern parts of the Gulf of Carpentaria have been lashed with heavy rain and gusty winds as a tropical low makes its presence felt.