Easter rainfall leaves dry areas mostly dry

With the release of NIWA’s latest seasonal outlook, rain over the Easter weekend has largely missed key farming areas affected by drought.

“With one third of autumn now gone and with winter approaching farmers are getting anxious,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson and West Coast provincial president.

“In terms of the drought’s cost, one of our dairy members in the Waikato has so far put it at $125,500 because of falling production, extra feed and regrassing.

“I can speak for many farmers in hoping that NIWA’s latest seasonal outlook comes to pass. NIWA predicts this ‘Indian summer’ will roll on a little while longer so if we can get that outcome along with normal rainfall then something could be salvaged before winter.

“It won’t be production but some decent rain combined with warm settled weather could help us to repair pasture and to get winter feed crops growing. To be honest this drought kicked in very late and that has been the problem because winter right now is in the back of our minds.

“Take this the Easter long weekend we have just had. While there was some rain, most of the drought affected areas remain exactly that.

“Thanks to the twister, my farm on the West Coast got a great 57mm drenching but on making wider enquiries we seem to have been an exception. In Buller and Grey Districts the average was more like 20mm and in some pockets there was next to nothing.

“Key farming areas of the West Coast still face massive soil moisture deficits and across the Main Divide, it seems rain in Canterbury only partially wet the concrete according to our Mid-Canterbury provincial president, Chris Allen.

“In South Canterbury provincial president Ivon Hurst recorded 1.5mm over Easter but then again they were not in drought thanks to the Opuha Water Storage Scheme, a good soaking two weeks earlier combined with sea fogs and absence of nor’westers.

“Up in Nelson, the rainfall there has been variable says our Nelson provincial president, Gavin O’Donnell; “with the driest parts of the province receiving the least”.

“In the Manawatu-Rangitkei province, the farm of provincial president Andrew Hoggard received only 1.3mm and he doubts much more fell elsewhere in the province.

“In the central North Island, Ruapehu provincial president Lyn Neeson said her province received 4mm of patchy drizzle but in the wider scheme of things was, “Nothing actually but a brilliant long weekend for the holidaymakers”.

“On the East Coast of the North Island, Peter Jex-Blake reported “Zilch in Gisborne” but with continuing hot dry conditions. Bruce Wills in Hawke’s Bay similarly reported a lack of rain and the showers which hit Wellington didn’t cross the Rimutaka’s and into the Wairarapa.

“In the Waikato, the Pukeatua farm of James Houghton, Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president received only 2mm of rain. James told us “some got more but most places got nil”.

“Our Bay of Plenty provincial president, John Scrimgeour, reported a similar result with about 2mm but there is hope for rain later this week.

“While central Auckland copped a fair bit of rain the Harbour Bridge appears to have been a dividing line. In south Auckland, especially towards the West Coast, the farm of Wendy Clark, Federated Farmers Auckland provincial president received 35mm in one-hour alone.

“But over the Harbour Bridge and towards Rodney in the north, it was a more circumspect 10mm. That fits with what Matt Long Federated Farmers Northland provincial president reported to us.

“Matt said drought affected areas towards Northland’s West Coast received little to nothing and not much in Whangarei District either. There was good rain in central Northland in the order of 15-60 mm while his farm at Tutukaka received 20mm.

“From the standpoint of Federated Farmers even when the drought does break, the effects of it will hang around for many months and even seasons for some sheep and beef farms especially,” Katie Milne concluded.

NIWA’s seasonal outlook is available by clicking here. The next meeting of the National Adverse Events Committee is on 9 April 2013.

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