17 Mar 2014

Parched Northland farmers still desperate

1:50 pm on 17 March 2014

Tropical Cyclone Lusi, or the little that remained of it, has proved to be a non-event for farmers in parched parts of the Northland rain.

The storm caused widespread power cuts and rough sea conditions in areas it passed through and brought reasonable rain to the north-eastern North Island.

But the areas most in need of it - in particular western Northland, Waikato and the south western North Island - got little relief.

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On Northland's west coast, five of the past six years have been dogged by drought and despite farmers' hopes, it received no rain during the weekend.

Rural Support Trust co-ordinator for Northland, Julie Jonker, says the rain didn't come in the areas needed and the feed situation for dairy farmers on the west coast is desperate.

"The east coast got some reasonable rain again but not the west coast, Pouto Point only getting about 5 millimetres," Ms Yonker told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme.

John Blackwell, a sheep and beef farmer at Okahu, near Dargaville, says they had just 36 millimetres of rain over two days, and every drop soaked in, but it was far short of what they need.

He says farmers needed more like 100 millimetres for two or three weeks in a row and it's very dry, even digging down a metre.

Mr Blackwell says whether there is follow-up rain after the weekend's rainfall will make or break it. He says he's already de-stocked to a lower level than he did during last year's drought.