13 Mar 2013

Regions wait to hear drought status

7:45 pm on 13 March 2013

North Island regions seeking recognition from the Government that they are in drought are waiting to hear whether it will agree to their requests.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has indicated he will be making a decision this week.

So far, the Government has declared medium scale droughts in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

Four other regions covering the rest of the North Island are seeking a drought declaration that will trigger support measures, ranging from farming advice to tax relief and emergency hardship payments.

Wairarapa is the latest to join the queue following a meeting of rural representatives there on Tuesday.

A Masterton district councillor and farmer, David Holmes, says this year is the driest he's seen.

He says he's been farming since 1968 on the same property and this is as bad as it gets.

Mr Holmes says the dry summer has been accentuated by a poor spring.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon says drought packages that banks are offering to take some of the immediate financial pressure off farmers will help.

He says a local drought committee will co-ordinate support measures.

Further north, a State of the Region agricultural drought report for Auckland shows February was the driest month recorded in Leigh since records began in 1966.

The report also shows soil moisture deficit levels are severe, and nearing a 150mm deficit, a point at which vegetation will not recover.

The drought report says the forecast rain for the region this weekend will not significantly alleviate drought conditions.

In the south of the South Island, Dunedin hydrological consultant Dave Stewart says that region may scrape by for the next few weeks, as long as there is no wind.

He says that end of the country is also drying off quickly despite receiving good rainfall in January and February.

The Southland regional council says 45 farms and other businesses have had to stop taking water for irrigation and other uses as streams and rivers fall below limits set in their resource consents.

Ten waterways including the Mataura, Waikaia and Oreti Rivers are affected.

Irrigation restrictions have also come into force in parts of Otago.