Big Dry in the Waikato

Posted by on 05/03/2014

dry field

As very dry, drought-like conditions continue throughout parts of the Waikato and South Auckland, Waikato Regional Council and stakeholders are stepping up discussions on how they might work together if the situation carries on.

Features of this summer’s big dry in the Waikato include:

• This January and February combined had the seventh lowest rainfall total for those two months at Ruakura since records began in 1907. It was only 32 per cent of normal

• Some rivers and streams are at or near record low flows for this time of year

• Warm temperatures and stronger winds are drying out soils

• Water use and fire restrictions are in place.

“This lack of rain means we are monitoring the situation very closely given the potential impacts on all sorts of activities, from farming through to irrigators and urban water supplies,” said regional council chairperson Paula Southgate.

“Council officials have been in contact with officials in other agencies and organisations. And last week a group of stakeholders – including Federated Farmers and the Rural Support Trust – held an initial meeting so that we’re ready to ramp up our response if necessary. This could include reconvening the Waikato Regional Drought Committee.

“We’re seeing extremely dry conditions in many parts of our region and we collectively need to be ready to respond proactively if the situation worsens,” Ms Southgate said.

She said the advice she’d received was that conditions are dry or drier than last year generally but farmers are said to be coping OK at this stage.

The Rural Support Trust in Waikato is encouraging any farmers with problems or emerging problems to reach out for assistance. “While we haven’t received calls for help we’re aware of the potential for farmers to suffer stress if conditions continue to worsen,” said trust chairman Neil Bateup.

“We’d urge farmers to talk to their neighbours, and the likes of DairyNZ, Beef & Lamb, farm consultants, accountants, banks and the trust.

“Also farm owners should check with managers, contractors and staff to ensure contingency plans are in place to deal with a potential ongoing dry period.” The trust’s area of responsibility includes Waikato and South Auckland.

Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton said: “Farmers are finding it tough in many parts due to scorched pastures but plenty of feed availability and good dairy herd management is helping them cope. A continuing proactive approach will help lower stress levels if the drought-like conditions carry on.”

At this stage the Government hasn’t been approached for a formal adverse event declaration that would provide for recovery assistance to farmers who needed it. That’s due to factors like a great spring and good levels of feed supplements being made, feed and grazing being available generally, and farmers reportedly doing a good job of managing the situation.