Drought one day, floods the next?


Drought or flood: No-one knows for sure what the next week will bring in Otago and South­land.

It could be lash­ings of the rain pre­dicted to fall Wed­nes­day night and Thurs­day, or more of the hot dry weather we’ve been hav­ing.

On Tues­day, an of­fi­cial drought was de­clared, in recog­ni­tion that we are now be­yond what is a nor­mal dry sum­mer, and into an ex­treme event in the south­ern re­gions.

The dec­la­ra­tion would of­fer some re­lief to those af­fected, CluthaSouth­land MP Hamish Walker said.

He was ‘‘pleased the Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries Damien O’Con­nor has lis­tened to our com­mu­ni­ties’ calls for ac­tion’’.

‘‘I’ve been lob­by­ing the Min­is­ter for this dec­la­ra­tion and I am glad he has acted with ur­gency.’’

It was a highly stress­ful time for farm­ers and their fam­i­lies, and on top of this, there was the added pres­sure of my­coplasma bo­vis, he said.

‘‘While they have been han­dling the dry con­di­tions rea­son­ably well over the past cou­ple of months, my of­fices in Gore, Bal­clutha and Queen­stown have started to see a huge in­crease in in­quiries from farm­ers con­cerned about the con- di­tions over the past two weeks.’’

This week, Niwa’s Drought In­dex showed most of Otago and South­land was either al­ready in drought or headed to­wards it without sub­stan­tial rain soon, he said

‘‘They are telling us the ex­pected rain won’t be enough to make a dif­fer­ence.’’

On the same day the drought was de­clared, the Otago Re­gional Coun­cil warned that rivers could rise rapidly with heavy rains, and de­spite the dry con­di­tions, the fore­casted heavy rains could cause flood­ing in Otago this week.

In a state­ment, the re­gional coun­cil said staff would be keep­ing a close watch on river lev­els from Wed­nes­day night to Friday morn­ing.

MetSer­vice has is­sued a se­vere weather watch with heavy rain fore­cast for the whole re­gion, with the heav­i­est rain ex­pected in the Otago head­wa­ters (South­ern Alps area). Heavy rain is also ex­pected in the cen­tral and coastal parts of the re­gion in­clud­ing the Dunedin City area of Otago.

The pre­dicted rain­fall in­ten­sity could cause rivers to rise rapidly and cause lo­calised flood­ing in low­ly­ing ar­eas. The heavy rains could also trig­ger sediment runoff, par­tic­u­larly in the Queen­stown Lakes.

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