Rural Assistance Payments

Financial assistance for farming families following an adverse event or natural disaster

Current adverse events

Central North Island Flood 2015

Farmers may be eligible to receive Rural Assistance Payments.

These payments are available to help farming families whose income is severely affected by the flooding in the areas covered by the following territorial local authorities :

  • New Plymouth
  • Stratford
  • South Taranaki
  • Rangitikei Council
  • Ruapehu
  • Whanganui
  • Manawatu and Horowhenua District Councils
  • Palmerston North City Council.

The level of assistance is based on your specific circumstances, but is usually equivalent to the Jobseeker Support benefit. Farmers must meet additional criteria that apply to these payments, including an income test for other significant income, personal (non-farm) assets and cash asset test.

Your local Rural Support Trust coordinator can provide more information about what you may be eligible for and help you with the application process.

Drought 2015

Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago are currently under a medium-scale drought declaration.

Rural Assistance Payments are currently available in:

  • Marlborough (Marlborough and Kaikoura District Councils)
  • Canterbury (Hurunui, Waimakariri, Selwyn, Ashburton, Mackenzie, Timaru, and Waimate District Councils, Christchurch City Council)
  • Otago (Waitaki and Central Otago District Councils, Dunedin City Council).

The Government has approved a range of support measures for farmers in the region. Please visit the Drought 2015 page for further details on how Work and Income may be able to help.

Rural Assistance Payment overview

We all try to prepare ourselves and our families for times when something unexpected happens (for example, a flood, biosecurity incursion, drought or other natural disaster). One of the best ways to prepare for this is by planning ahead.

Unfortunately, sometimes, in spite of our preparations we need some extra help.

Rural Assistance Payments are the Governments’ way of providing this extra help to those farming families who need it.

What are Rural Assistance Payments for?

Rural Assistance Payments are provided to meet essential living expenses for farming families affected by an adverse event.

What is an adverse event?

Adverse events are climatic events, natural disasters or biosecurity incursions described as medium or large scale as defined by the Ministry of Primary Industry’s (MPI) adverse events recovery framework.

The Government scales adverse events through an adverse events recovery framework to decide what sort of assistance will be provided.

For more information on the adverse events recovery framework, see the:

What are the conditions for payment?

  • The applicant finds it difficult to meet essential living expenses through their farming business because of an adverse event.
  • The applicant has no other significant income.
  • Payments are cash and off-farm asset tested. Farm/orchard assets such as dairy company, meat company or fertiliser company shares are not included in the off-farm asset testing.

What are the payment details?

Payments are equivalent to the current rate of Jobseeker Support at the time of the event.

Payments can be made for one year from date of application or for a period as approved by the Minister for Social Development, whichever is the lesser.

Payments are approved from the Monday of the week of application.

You or your partner can earn $80.00 per week (before tax) before your Rural Assistance Payments are affected.

Payments should generally be made in a lump sum representing a four-week period. You will need to re-apply every four weeks if you need ongoing assistance.


  • Payments may need to be made weekly if there is any off-farm income that is likely to vary. In these cases the amount of off-farm income can be phoned in eachf week to enable the correct rate of payment. You may get less than the maximum rate if you have other non-farming income.
  • If you have children you may also be able to get family tax credit or extra allowances.
  • Tax is deducted at M rate.

How to apply?

Complete the application form:

Your local Rural Support Trust can also help with filling out the application form if needed. See their page in the Ministry of Primary Industry’s website:

You will need an Agriculture Recovery Facilitator to sign the declaration part of the form (this is usually your Rural Support Trust co-ordinator).

Initial applications can be made either in person at a Work and Income office or through a Work and Income Rural Case Manager. Further applications to extend the duration of payments can be posted or faxed to your local Work and Income office. Contact details for your local Work and Income office are available by calling Work and Income on 0800 559 009.

What other support is available?

If your income has changed because of an adverse event, you may be eligible to receive extra assistance through for example Working for Families.

To see if you are eligible for more money through Working for Families go to their website and check how much you could get by using the calculators.

For more information, you can also call:

  • 0800 774 004 for housing and childcare
  • 0800 227 773 for tax credits