25 Jan 2010

Drought continues in Northland

6:01 am on 25 January 2010

Northland farmers continue to face drought conditions despite limited rain over the weekend.

Rain had been forecast, but what little there was in that region has not changed the drought declaration that the Government issued for Northland last week.

Dairy farmer Bruce Paton says milk production is 50% less than at the same time last year on his farms at Ruakaka south of Whangarei and west of Wellsford.

He says that's meant reducing demand by drying off cows and cows are being supplemented with palm kernel and grass sileage.

Water restrictions

Rain in Hawke's Bay last week, including heavy weekend falls that caused surface flooding in some areas, has allowed the regional council to lift irrigation restrictions on most rivers.

The council says soil moisture levels this summer are generally higher than for the past three summers, but it expects to have to reimpose water restrictions unless there's more rain.

But there are still water use restrictions on three North Otago rivers because of low flows stemming from the lack of rain.

The Shag River is under full restriction, water allocation is being rostered for the Kakanui River and water take controls are also being applied on the Waianakarua River.

However, the regional council has lifted restrictions on the Taieri River because flows there are back above minimum levels.

MAF response

The Ministry of Agriculture says although a lack of rain is most critical in Northland, parts of the Bay of Plenty and North Otago are also very dry. Eastern parts of both islands are fairly dry.

Waikato is starting to dry out, particularly in the northern and eastern areas.

The ministry says the national adverse events committee will be meet on 3 February to look at the national picture and see what needs to be done.