21 May 2010

Heavy rain ends Northland drought

2:53 pm on 21 May 2010

Northland's six-month drought is over after two weeks of intermittent rain but the region could be counting the cost for months, if not years.

Northland Regional Council says a heavy downpour in the north on Thursday was effectively the drought-breaker.

The rain has allowed Whangarei District Council to lift water restrictions. The Far North Council lifted its ban on hoses and irrigation on Monday.

Regional council operations manager Tony Phipps says the six-month drought has cost farmers millions of dollars in lost production and increased expenses, including animal feed.

He says it has also taken a heavy toll on Northland's natural environment, including bush and birdlife.

Mr Phipps says the region will need higher than average winter rainfall to restore soil moisture levels to their pre-drought levels.

Careful water use urged

Whangarei District Council says the Whau Valley dam, which supplies much of the town's water, is 58% full after Thursday's storm.

The council says that is still lower than usual for this time of year, but with the wet season approaching, it decided to lift the ban on hosing and other restraints.

It says, however, that Whangarei's water supply is not yet in a strong position for next summer and people should still conserve water as much as possible.