22 Apr 2013

More North Island areas move out of drought

7:20 am on 22 April 2013

Weekend rain has brought further relief to farmers in drought areas.

While some say it's been enough to break the back of the drought for them, others say they are not out of trouble yet and follow up rain over the next few weeks will be critical.

Most of Bay of Plenty had moved out of drought last week before the latest rain which caused flooding in a number of areas.

Waikato and most of Taranaki have also had good falls.

Mike Moss, who farms in the Raglan area of western Waikato, said the latest rain had been the drought breaker for him and since Tuesday about 93 millimetres had fallen.

He said so far it had been gentle soft rain, rather than major downpours which had caused problems in some areas.

A dairy farmer in the Eltham area of Taranaki Harvey Leach said most of that region had now turned the corner as well and more than 40 millimetres had fallen in the last week.

He said the grass was now growing well and Taranaki should go into the winter reasonably strongly.

But other parts of the North Island still need a lot more to take them out of the clutches of the drought.

They include Northland's Kaipara and Far North districts.

Dargaville dairy farmer Bill Guest said the water shortage in some areas remained critical and the hosing bans in the Far North were continuing.

"Kaipara, particularly in the town of Dargaville, the water supply is critical. We've had round about 24 to 25 millimetres of rain, that's all, the NRC (Northland regional council) say that we need about 160 millimetres to get the moisture levels back up in the soil."

Mr Guest said some dairy farmers had been recycling shed washings to water their stock and farmers were also battling feed shortages.

Moisture conditions were still borderline in parts of the central North Island, including the Taihape district, where Fraser Gordon farms.

He said there had been 30 millimetres for the whole month but regular rain with warm temperatures were needed for the next two or three weeks to build up reserves.

Mr Gordon said what happens in May and early June would dictate whether farms had to destock any further or whether they could get by.

Pastures are finally starting to green up as well in one of the driest regions, central Hawke's Bay, although it's not enough yet to shake off the drought.

And soil moisture levels are also recovering on the West Coast of the South Island, also still officially in drought.