Rural Assistance Payments

Rural Assistance Payments can help farmers during or after an adverse event, eg. a flood or drought.


As a result of the drought and floods in August 2021, the Government has activated Rural Assistance Payments from 2 August 2021 for Marlborough, Tasman, West Coat, Canterbury, Otago and the Chatham Islands. See list of districts below.

  • About Rural Assistance Payments

    Rural Assistance Payments are paid during or after an adverse event. They're paid to help farmers with essential living costs.

    Adverse events

    Adverse events are climatic events, natural disasters or biosecurity issues. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) classifies these as either localised events, or medium- or large- scale events.

    If it's a medium or large scale event, the Government then decides what sort of assistance will be provided.

    Find out how adverse events are classified on the Ministry for Primary Industries' website:

  • Who can get it

    You may be able to get a Rural Assistance Payment if:

    • you're finding it difficult to meet your essential living costs through your farming business because of an adverse event.
    • your farm is your main source of income, eg:
      • meat or poultry farming
      • wool
      • dairy products
      • arable farming
      • aquaculture
      • sharemilking
      • an orchard
      • bee-keeping
      • herb or flower growing
      • a market garden.

    It also depends on:

    • how much you and your partner earn (not including your farming business), and
    • any money or off-farm assets you and your partner have.

    Areas that have access to this funding

    • Marlborough District Council
    • Tasman District Council
    • Buller District Council
    • Grey District Council
    • Westland District Council
    • Kaikoura District Council
    • Hurunui District Council
    • Selwyn District Council
    • Waimakariri District Council
    • Christchurch City Council
    • Ashburton District Council
    • Timaru District Council
    • Mackenzie District Council
    • Waimate District Council
    • Waitaki District Council
    • Central Otago District Council
    • Queenstown Lakes District Council
    • Dunedin City Council
    • Clutha District Council
    • Chatham Islands District Council

    Income limits

    If you have other income other than your farming business, this may affect how much Rural Assistance Payment you get.

    You and your partner can earn up to $160 a week (before tax) combined before this affects your payments. If you earn more than this, you may still get a Rural Assistance Payment, but at a lower rate.

    Asset limits

    To get this payment, any cash or off-farm assets you have must be under a certain amount. This doesn't include farm or orchard assets, such as shares in dairy, meat or fertiliser companies.

    If you are:

    Your assets must be less than:



    a couple (with or without children) or a sole parent


  • What you can get

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

    You or your partner can earn up to $160.00 per week (before tax) before your Rural Assistance Payments are affected. If you're earning more than this, you may still be able to get Rural Assistance Payments at a reduced rate, which will be paid weekly.

    Tax is automatically deducted at 'M' rate.

  • How long you can get it for

    Rural Assistance Payments are generally paid in a lump sum covering 4 weeks. If you need the payment for longer than this, you'll need to reapply every 4 weeks.

    You can apply for Rural Assistance Payments for:

    • up to one year from the date you apply, or
    • a set length of time, which is approved by the Minister for Social Development.

    You'll get paid for whichever is the shortest of these options.

  • How to apply

    You need to:

    1. fill out the 'Rural Assistance Payment Application' form (your local Rural Support Trust can help you fill this out)
    2. print the form
    3. get the declaration form signed by either:
      1. an Agri-recovery Facilitator, or
      2. a Rural Support Trust coordinator
    4. call us to talk about how to get this to us.
  • Other support

    We may be able to help you in other ways, for example if you've had to stop work or need help to pay unexpected costs. You can use our online tool to find out what support you might be eligible for, and how to apply for this.