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North Island drought worst in history
KIRSTY JOHNSTON 10/03/2013
Drought gripping the North Island is the most severe in history, with the crisis far from over both for now and in years
to come, scientists say.
Long, dry spells are forecast to double by 2040 as temperatures continue to rise and New Zealand heads towards a more Mediterranean climate.
Experts warn it could spell the end for farming as we know it and may cost the country billions of dollars in drought relief each year before
practices are adjusted.
"This is historic," said climate scientist Jim Salinger, who has calculated that the amount of rain needed for grass growth was the highest since
records began. "It's like comparing your income against expenditure in your cheque book. And we are in deficit."
Drought was declared last week in Northland, South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and Hawke's Bay, meaning extra government
funding is available for hardship.
Another two regions, Manawatu and Rangitikei, have asked the Government to declare a state of drought in their regions, which could come as early
Yesterday, a near total fire ban was declared across the North Island, also for the first time. It was equally dry in parts of the south, though it is
forecast to rain lightly in Canterbury this week.
Hokitika cattle farmer Kees van Beek said if the dry weather continued on the West Coast for another fortnight, things would become "fairly
desperate". Van Beek, who has farmed in the area for more than 40 years, said while there were some very dry summers back in the 1970s, this
summer was "as dry if not drier".
His property had seen just 8mm of rain in the last 30 days. "We normally average 11 mm per day throughout the year." In the heartland of the
Canterbury plains, they are used to big dry summers.
"Hot dry weather is actually quite good for growing grass," said dairy farmer James Bourke in Culverden. Then comes the laconic kicker. "When
there's water. t's just that when there's no water it's not so good.
"The river levels are so low and the ground water is quite low, so even irrigation is starting to disappear. The Waiau is still good. There's reasonable
flow and it's not on restriction.
"The other half of Culverden is using the Hurunui irrigation scheme and they have no irrigation because of restrictions and the grass is burning off
because it's so dry.
"They're going through a lot of supplement. The price of supplement is going up and palm kernels are getting expensive." In Cheviot, Hamish Haugh
runs sheep. While it was drier than what he would like to be, it was not yet a drought. Not yet.
His eyes are on the horizon though, hunting for rain clouds. He wants some rain in the next 10 days. "In Canterbury we're generally used to having
droughts more often. We have a significantly dry year one out of five.
"We are always conservative with our stock numbers and we always keep supplements on hand."
Salinger said the regional spread of the drought was more extensive than in any of the past 70 years, taking in most of the North Island.
Severity of drought is measured by potential soil moisture deficit - the amount of water that would be required to keep pastures topped up with
moisture for grass growth.
Already, the North Island requires 362mm of rain to keep the grass growing. Previously, the highest record rainfall needed was in the summer of
1945-46 when the deficit was 361mm.
Salinger's calculation sits alongside data released by Niwa last week showing that drought will only become more intense and more frequent in
the next 30 years.
Farmers feeling bite as stockfeed crunch looms
Mr. Lovelock admitted next season's productivity was a concern. "The cows' condition now affects how we do next season."
A state of drought has already been officially declared in theSouth Auckland,Waikato including Coromandel and Taupo, Bayof Plenty and HawkesBay regions.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said this is recognition that farmers across the North Island are facing extremely difficult conditions.
"These organisations work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance in what is a very tough time," Mr Guy said. "I realise these can be stressful times for
Federated Farmers provincial president Andrew Hoggard said the Rangitikei and Manawatu regions, including Horowhenua, were in a bad way and he expected a formal declaration of drought for the regions to be declared within a week.
Photo taken in December 2012 of Mr. Carl Knights property in the Rangitikei.
Photo taken in the same location March 2013 of Mr. Carl Knights property in the Rangitikei. Ground is vertually baron with no food for the Stock.
Dried up water courses happening in many areas |
Drought - worst since 1940s
From the Beehive. Reported in the Horowhenua Chronicle Friday March 8 2013
Dry conditions tough for farmers
with NATHAN GUY, OtakiMP
It's certainly been a busy few weeks for me, both locally and as the Minister for Primary Industries. I've been visiting many different places around the country as well as my usual duties as local MP.
On Wednesday last week I announced an official drought in Northland. Other parts of the country are likely to ask for assistance this week. This means that the Government can now offer help to farmers by coordinating support through local organisations like the Rural Support Trusts. In extreme cases*. there will also be rural assistance payments available to farmers in severe hardship.
Nathan Guy MP for Otaki
Dave McGaveston does not mince words. It is, he says, his worst season in 40 years of farming.
Drought declaration good news for farmers
Last updated 15/03/2013 A state of drought has been officially declared throughout the entire NorthIsland.
This will be good news for Horowhenua farmers feeling the pressure of how to feed stock and manage crops with no rain to help pasture growth.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said organisations throughout the Manawatu, Taranaki, Wairarapa and Wellington regions, including Federated Farmers, had asked for regional declarations of drought during the past week.
"It has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions."
Foxton dairy farmer John Davis said if the costs of transporting feed up from the South Island could be covered, it would be a big help.
"Here in the Horowhenua we haven't done too bad, but the situation is looking grim," he said.
"In terms of rain, there's not much we can do, but if we get only a sprinkle of rain this weekend and then it gets hot and dry again we'll be no better off."
Mr Davis said Horowhenua was more fortunate than other North Island areas, receiving good rainfall during late spring and early summer.
"Production was the best it's been - but the situation has gone backwards very smartly. But that's just sometimes the way it is in farming."
Mr Guy said declaring drought status meant extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts which work closely with farmers to provide support and guidance.
There will also be rural assistance payments available from Work and Income, which are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and available to those in extreme hardship.
"Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available," Mr Guy said.
"Some rain is forecast this weekend which is welcome news. However we will need more than this to help prepare for the winter and set up for next spring."
Mr Guy said parts of the South Island were also very dry, in particular the Grey and Buller districts, and he would keep a close watch on these.
He said farmers should contact their accountants or the IRD for help or flexibility with tax payments, while standard hardship assistance was available from Work and Income.
- Horowhenua Mail
Drought crisis deepens |
CHRIS HYDE Last updated1 6/03/2013
He said his trip to Latin American had no impact on the timing of his announcement.
Manawatu and Rangitikei are now in the grips of the worst drought in a lifetime and the government's official declaration should have come sooner for the region, farmers say.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy announced yesterday on a farm in Kimbolton that the entireNorthIslandwould be made a drought zone. But farmers say Manawatu and Rangitikei hill country is drier than manyNorth Islandareas now officially declared in drought and the announcement took too long to come.
Manawatu/Rangitikei meat and fibre chairman Fraser Gordon, who has been farming since the 1970s, said the dry conditions were the worst in his lifetime.
"We should have been called three weeks ago. To me, it's the biggest drought since 1947,"
He said the full effects of the drought would be felt when frosts hit in six weeks' time if rain had not moistened the parched ground.
"Once we get to that point there's going to be some serious health issues - for stock and for farmers.
"It's those younger farmers that I'm really worried about. Wthey only started out last year I can't see how they can get through this crisis."
The timing and widespread nature of the announcement surprised Manawatu/Rangitikei dairy chairman James Stewart.
Mr Stewart said he had thought the official drought declaration would come before Mr Guy had returned from his trip to Latin American.
Instead, yesterday's declaration had painted Manawatu as being in the same state as areas like Horowhenua, which he said was catching up fast, but probably not in drought yet.
"All we really want is rain. Drought declaration is fine but without rain it won't make a lot of difference."
Mr Guy defended his decision to declare Manawatu a drought zone at the same time as the rest of theNorth Island.
"I flew down fromAuckland[yesterday] morning and I spent most of my time looking out the window. It's dry everywhere."
"This is a serious event but we have to remember, farmers are tough, farmers are resilient, they have battled through drought and snowstorms and all sorts before and they will get through this."
Weather statistics show that a dry finish to March will put 2013 into the record books as one of the driest, sunniest and warmest on record.
The dry weather has not just affected farmers. The Turitea dam level has dropped to 3.09 metres below capacity, giving the city 38 days' water storage before it becomes bore-dependent. Palmerston North City Council staff are not expecting the chance of rain on Sunday to relieve the
Data showed some of the region’s rivers had dropped to their lowest levels In over 30 years with
Drought in the Waikato
Wellinton's water supply now at " Crisis " Level
The Wellington region's water supply is at ' crisis ' level, while even the tipically wet West coast is experiencing a big dry as New Zealand's summer drought extends further. While much of the North Island has been declared to be in driought by the Government, 20 days of water is about all that's left for the people of Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua if the heavens do not open soon, according to Nigel Wison, who chairs the committee in charge of the water supply.
The region has had no significant rain since February 4th, while Wellington City has not had a drop for a month.
From paper past. ( This extract from the Thames Star
Wellington, January 8
Fire ban blankets sizzling lower North Island
Friesian cows with not much to eat, pastures have dried up due to lack of rain
"Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available," Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said.
The ministry, Beef + Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ are among those providing support to farmers. THE BARE FACTS
UV levels: UV levels in February and March have been up 20 per cent from normal. Sunscreen sales jumped by at least 30 per cent from December.
Cool relief: Icecream and ice block sales are up at least seven per cent from last summer.
Tomatoes: The hot weather has contributed to a bumper crop of quality tomatoes, which are retailing around $2 a kilo.
Sports: The winter sports season could be delayed in parts of the North Island due to dry fields, impacting rugby, league and football.
Butterflies: Insects are struggling to find water but none so much as the monarch butterfly, which relies solely on domestic swan plants.
Birds: Kiwi and other native birds are struggling to find food and water in parts of the country, with younger birds at risk of starvation.
Rained off: Womad festival-goers were rained on in New Plymouth yesterday, and a primary school cricket game was called off.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Lost autumn likely to add more misery
As well as the Horowhenua farmers having a tough time with the drought.
Over the Tararua ranges the farmers in the Wairarapa are equally suffering. As illustrated above on Mr. John Booths farm.
"Some of the hill country farmers around here are really struggling for water.. .If you run out of water, that's catastrophic." Conditions were "heading to be worse" than the drought of 2007-08.
Lost autumn likely to add more misery |
SEAMUS BOYER WAIRARAPA
What it takes to end the big dry
MICHELLE ROBINSON Last updated 17/03/2013
Just three days of consistent rain is needed to end the worst drought in 70 years, but meteorologists say if it doesn't come soon it will be too late for farmers.
The North Island requires at least 362mm of rain to get grass growing again. Another three days of moderate rain would nurture new seedlings, climate scientist Jim Salinger said.
But there is a deadline.
"By May it's too late. Come winter, it will be too cold and the damage will already be done."
The rain has to be the right type as well - moderate, not a sudden downpour. Any deluge will muddy the ground and impede growth.
There was drizzle in some areas yesterday and rain is forecast for today and tomorrow in many parts of the country. But dry sunny spells are expected to continue for the rest of the month, with normal rainfall expected for April, meteorologist Richard Turner said.
Drought was officially declared over the North Island last week. The Grey and Buller districts are also on drought watch.
This is the worst drought in New Zealand in 70 years due to its severity and regional spread, Salinger said. Previously the highest record rainfall needed was in the summer of 1945-46, when the soil moisture deficit was 361mm.
It's been a summer of troubling milestones with a total North Island fire ban and outdoor water ban in Wellington after authorities announced last week there were just 20 days of supply left.
Garden hoses and public fountains may remain off for another fortnight with fines of up to $20,000 for anyone who flouts the restrictions.
Public pool showers may also be switched off.
Typically much of the North Island gets 11 rain days in March and 12 to 14 in April. But most places have not received anything since February 5.
Long dry spells are expected to double by 2040 as the country heads towards a Mediterranean climate.
Droughts cost around $2.5 billion between 1997 and 1999, and $2.8b in 2007-2008, Salinger said.
Federated Farmers has set up a "feedline" to match farmers with feed supplies. And chartered boats and train carriages are being sought to carry feed from the South Island.
"Even if it rains tomorrow, it will take three to four weeks to get enough grass cover," national president Bruce Wills said.
"If the rain doesn't come in the next month or so it will be a difficult winter period. With the cold the grass won't grow so it will be spring before we get anything."
Fertilizer company Ravensdown has offered to carry 6000 straw bales on a South Island return trip. Hamburg Sud offered to fill 30 containers with feed.
The Government is offering rural assistance payments through Work and Income to those in extreme hardship.
DROUGHT FACTS Who's affected?
Parts of the North Island have received between a third and a half of the normal rainfall levels over summer. The following areas have been officially declared to be in drought:
• South Auckland.
• Waikato (including Coromandel, Hauraki and Matarnata-Piako).
• Hawke's Bay.
• Bay of Plenty.
Manawatu and Rangitikei have asked the Government to declare a drought in their regions.
What is it costing ?
• DairyNZ estimates that by the end of March, milk production for 2013 will have been reduced by
• The average Waikato dairy farmer will lose an estimated $140,000 in lost revenues and increased
• The Government says total losses to the economy could reach $1 billion.
* 1908 - Drought in Wellington
• 2007 - Record low rainfall in many northern and eastern areas leads to a shortage of feed and
• 2008 - Waikato experiences driest January in a century. Severe moisture deficits continue in North
• 2010 - 253mm of rain falls in Northland between November 2009 and April 2010, leading to its
• 2050 - Niwa models suggest that by mid-century, farmers in most NorthIslandregions, as well as
What can farmers do?
The Ministry of Environment warns climate change will bring more drought to some areas, especially Waikato, Wairarapa and Marlborough over the rest of the century.
Here's a summary of predictions based on climate change modelling:
Northland: Decreased annual rainfall but more intense, heavy winter rain.
Auckland: Time spent in drought ranges from minimal change through to more than double.
Waikato: Time spent in drought is likely to increase, leading to water shortages and wild fires.
Bay of Plenty: Spring rainfall is likely to decrease by 9 per cent.
Gisborne and Hawke's Bay: Winter rainfall is likely to be down by 16 per cent.
Taranaki: Little change to annual rainfall, winter rainfall down 6 per cent.
Manawatu and Whanganui: Very heavy rainfall likely to be more frequent.
Wellington and Wairarapa: Much less winter and spring rain. Time in drought likely to increase.
Marlborough: Time in drought likely to increase.
Nelson: Annual rainfall up 4 per cent.
Canterbury: Winter rainfall down 11 per cent in Christchurch, up 18 per cent in Tekapo.
West Coast: Wetter; heavy rainfall events more frequent.
Otago: Rainfall up 4 per cent in Dunedin, rainfall up 12 per cent in Queenstown.
Southland: 7 per cent more rain, more in winter.
Other warnings include:
Heat: Higher temperatures will mean an increase in demand for air-conditioning systems and therefore for electricity in summer. But there will be a reduction in demand for winter heating.
Flooding: More frequent intense winter rainfalls to increase the flooding by rivers, as well as flash flooding when urban drainage systems become overwhelmed.
Water: Water demand up during hot, dry summers. Lower river flows in summer will aggravate water quality problems.
Source: Ministry of Environment
• © Fairfax NZ News
Water restriction in Levin in February 2013 due to the continuing drought
Drought in Nelson 1979 Slim pickings for sheep
One of the worst droughts experienced in New Zealand happened in the summer of 1946.
The report below was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald January 1946.
Drought in New Zealand
Auckland, Tuesday 23 January 1946.
The worst drought for 25 years is being experienced over most of the North IsIand.
Rainfall in the northern areas in the past three months has been only one sixth of the average.
Water is being brought into some districts and sold at sixpence a large tinful. In many remote areas,
|21-3-2013 : Rain has fallen the drought is drawing to a close.||21-3-2013 : Rain has fallen the drought is drawing to a close.|
John Davis ( Farmer )
| By KELVIN TEIXEIRA |
Foxton dairy farmer John Davis can almost see his grass turning greener before his eyes.
"We've had 60 millilitres of rain here," he said, after a welcome end this week to a long dry spell.
Mr Davis, farming 40-plus years, said the current drought was as bad as the one in the 1969 to 1970 summer.
21-3-2013 Rainy days arrive just in time
By KELVIN TEIXEIRA
Rainfall this week has averted the need for greater restrictions on water use in Levin.
"We are not sure how the river will drop back once the rain subsides," she said. "However, the chances of a level three restriction being imposed soon are less now."
Horowhenua District council water services Manager Sarah Stephens
An interesting Piece of reseach for the Horowhenua Area added to this sight 4th November 2013. Although this is not about dry weather, its' about floods. Just for something different.
Notes for The Big Dry and Manakau
Reported in Fielding Star Volume XV1 Issue 4165 dated 9th December 1920
BRIDGES WASHED AWAY
EXTENSIVE DAMAGE DONE. Very heavy rain occurred in the Levin, Shannon, and Otaki districts on Monday and Tuesday. An exceptional downpour occurred in the ranges, with the result that nearly all the rivers are in flood. At Mangahoa, where November is generally the wettest month off the year, tlie usual heavy rains have extended into December, and on Monday and Tuesday the big total of 8 inches was recorded.
HOROWHENUA CHRONICLE, Wednesday, Aprii 24, 2013
Levin water restrictions lifted
It's back to normal for Levin residents with the lifting of all water restrictions imposed during the drought.
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Vintage Flour Mill at Poroutawhao, Levin