26 May 2009

Rain 'heralds end' of NI drought

9:41 pm on 26 May 2009

Farmers on the east coast of the North Island are hoping rainfall over the weekend will bring an end to the drought most have experienced since last November.

Heavy rain was on Monday working its way from Hawke's Bay to north of Gisborne, and up to 150mm of rain is forecast in some places.

Farmers from Wairarapa to Wairoa say that in the 24 hours to Sunday evening 50mm to 60mm of rain had fallen - enough to herald the beginning of the end of the drought.

While the rain will begin to fill up aquifers, streams and farm dams, farmers say it is now too cold for new grass to grow.

Gisborne farming leader Hamish Cave has described the wet weather in the area over the weekend as some of the best rainfall in the region in past three years. He says about 75mm of rain fell at his Ngatapa farm.

Mr Cave says the rainfall will be a morale boost, even though it will still be a long hard winter for many farmers trying to keep stock well fed, with little grass on the hills for cattle.

Weekend rainfall will also help replenish soil moisture levels in Wairarapa, where central and eastern areas are in their third year of drought.

Wairarapa farmers president Anders Crofoot says it won't have immediate benefit in those areas as it is too late to grow any grass, so while farmers are still in for a hard winter they can hope for a good spring.