29 Jan 2018

Drought declaration likely for Otago and Southland

9:32 pm on 29 January 2018

A drought may be declared in Otago and Southland within days.

Dry farmland in Central Otago.

Dry farmland in Central Otago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Record heat and prolonged dry conditions have been hitting farmers hard.

Droughts have already been declared in the lower North Island and the South Island's West Coast.

Federated Farmers representative in Central Otago, Andrew Paterson, said he expected an official drought to be also called for Central Otago and Southland within the next week.

His farm has had its driest 12 months since records began 70 years ago in 1948, said Mr Paterson.

It had received only 290mm of rain, when the average was 500mm, he said.

Water was getting scarce.

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Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Irrigation has already been halved in the area and was heading towards 25 percent or a complete stop.

His farm had little grass and it had had to offload thousands of lambs and cattle that it would normally fatten first - even stock water was getting low.

Not only that but the extreme heat was taking its toll too.

Farmer Andrew Paterson on his bone dry  farm near Omakau, Central Otago.

Farmer Andrew Paterson on his bone dry farm near Omakau, Central Otago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

"Since we started tailing, which was last week in November, the heat just hasn't let up," he said.

On Saturday the thermometer on Mr Paterson's tractor reached 44 degrees outside he said.

Those problems were widespread across Central Otago and Southland.

"Mentally, I know quite a few farmers who are struggling there too," he said.

Farmers needed more support, said Mr Paterson.

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