20 Mar 2013

Rain allows Nelson to avoid drought declaration

2:08 pm on 20 March 2013

Weekend rain was a game changer in Nelson allowing the region to avoid seeking a drought declaration.

The rainfall varied widely in the region, with about 40mm in southern areas and more than 100mm in the Nelson Lakes area.

Federated Farmers Nelson president Gavin O'Donnell said local officials who met on Tuesday decided that given the amount of rainfall they would not ask the Government to declare a drought zone.

But Mr O'Donnell said concerns remain, especially regarding the amount of supplementary feed available for farmers to give their animals over winter.

Meanwhile all farmers and smallholders on the West Coast are being encouraged to get along to farming in drought meetings organised by Dairy NZ, Federated Farmers and the Rural Support Trust.

The West Coast last week asked the Government to declare its region in a state of drought.

In the North Island, some regions have had potentially drought breaking rains this week, but others, including Northland and Gisborne, have had little relief.

And MetService has predicted that little if any significant rain will fall on the North Island over the coming 10 days.

Renewed optimism in some districts

In eastern drought zones, Tararua District received the most generous falls of 100 -150mm, while Wairarapa had 60-100mm of rain.

Farmers in central Hawke's Bay, who have been struggling with drought conditions for longer than most, report useful amounts of rain there too.

Sarah von Dadelszen, a Waipukerau sheep, beef and dairy farmer, said they had the first significant rain since Boxing Day. She said it is still early enough to help the autumn growth and any follow up rain will help.

In the Whanganui region, Federated Farmers president Brian Doughty says farmers there are also breathing a sigh of relief with the rain that's arrived over the last few days.

As of Tuesday night Whanganui had received about 85mm which Mr Doughty said has had a huge impact on soil moisture levels.

He said with grass growth still 20 to 30 days away it is too early to say the drought is over in the region but if they continue to get rain and not too much wind the outlook is positive.

East Coast, Northland fare less well

The downpours were the envy of farmers on the East Coast of the North Island where there has been only intermittent light falls. Just over 2mm of rain fell in Gisborne on Tuesday.

Rural support coordinator for the East Coast, David Scott, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme it's been frustrating watching the substantial amount of rain other regions are getting.

But he says it's now emerging that farmers have learned really well from previous droughts and have acted early this year.

Farmers in the north of the North Island haven't fared so well either. Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker says what little rain that did fall wasn't in the most-needed locations.