26 Jun 2015

Southern farmers welcome the thaw

2:59 pm on 26 June 2015

Farmers in the MacKenzie basin are relieved that a thaw has set in after a week of sub zero temperatures and deep snow in places still frozen on the ground.

Inland parts of Canterbury and Otago had been battling extremely low temperatures all week, following last week's snow that knocked out power to many areas.

A few farmers in Canterbury are still without power.

One of the coldest areas has been the MacKenzie basin in South Canterbury, where temperatures of below minus 20 degrees have been recorded, freezing water supplies and the fuel in vehicles.

Andrew Simpson at Balmoral Station in the lake Tekapo area said the temperature there had ranged from a high of minus eight to a low of minus 20, but they were hoping the nor'westerly wind that had arrived would start melting the snow quickly now.

'It's been exceptionally cold for the past week, but we've now got a really good thaw going on today, so here's hoping the next two or three days should see a lot of the snow start to shift off the sunny faces, at any rate.

"We had a metre fall around the house and it's sunk down now to about half a metre, but it's still pretty difficult to get around.

"Most people in the Mackenzie Basin are well set up with snow ploughs and four wheel drive tractors so you can handle quite significant snow falls and get round and feed the sheep on tracks, so it's meals on wheels."

The temperatures, while still low, had not been quite as extreme in Central Otago.

Andrew Paterson at Matakanui Station in the Manuherikia Valley said the temperature there had risen to minus two today, and they were seeing some signs of thawing as well, which is welcome, because the frozen snow has been the biggest challenge.

"Even though it's not very thick in places, we've just had no thaw and it's gone to a frozen crust, so we've had a lot of issues with stock struggling to get water, and stock on hill country and rolling tussock country that normally would have roughage this time of the year.

"It's completely blanketed in snow, and having no thaw, we've had to bring them down and feed them, so it's made it a bit tougher.

"Also, water freezing in troughs and ponds. We actually had a calf stuck out in the middle of a pond yesterday that we had to lassoo and drag out, just because it couldn't get to stock water."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs