4 Sep 2015

Farmers fear return to 'desert' conditions

2:51 pm on 4 September 2015

A farmer in the heart of the North Canterbury drought says a prolonged dry spell brought on by El Niño will put already struggling farmers in dire straits.

Drought conditions in mid-Canterbury, January 2015

Dry conditions in mid-Canterbury in January 2015. Photo: Jeremy Talbot

Vince Daily, who runs a 160-hectare cropping farm in Cheviot, said the NIWA weather station on his farm showed the soil moisture level was at 30 percent, rather than the normal 100 percent it is at at this time of year.

Mr Daily said any drought caused by El Niño would just be a continuation of the current conditions.

"We could lose two or three percent moisture a day and in 20 days you could be back to looking like a desert again," he said.

"I took over the farm here in 1975, so I've seen a few. Last [El Niño] we had a lot of north-westerlies in the spring."

He said even a couple of inches of rain in November would make a huge difference.

"Even at the moment, the grass is starting to grow but we need a bit of good rain just to get things going. If we get all this wind they are talking about, it's going to be interesting."

Dry winter for eastern parts of New Zealand

Meanwhile, NIWA has released its climate summary for winter, which showed rainfall was below normal or well below normal in eastern parts of both islands.

In contrast, rainfall was plentiful for many western areas of New Zealand.

NIWA said winter temperatures were near average across most of the country.

There were pockets of below average temperatures in western Waikato, Tararua, Wairarapa, mid-Canterbury, Tasman and coastal Otago, and pockets of above average temperatures in Christchurch, Central Otago and Manawatu.

The nationwide average temperature in winter was just above 8°C, but Mackenzie Country and Central Otago recorded some of the lowest temperatures ever in June.

The lowest was -21°C at Tara Hills in Otago on 24 June.

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