Drought loom­ing for Waikato

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Rain­fall lev­els are threat­en­ing to reach crit­i­cal sta­tus in the tin­derdry Waikato, which is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the dri­est sum­mer in five years. The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries is mon­i­tor­ing the weather closely, but farm­ers will be left se­verely out of pocket if con­di­tions get as bad as they did in the sum­mer of 2008.

That drought robbed the farm­ing com­mu­nity of hun­dreds of mil­lions through lost milk pro­duc­tion.

MPI spokesman Stu­art An­der­son said although farm­ers had been man­ag­ing the dry con­di­tions by de-stock­ing, us­ing sup­ple­men­tary feed, or buy­ing feed in, rain­fall lev­els over coming weeks will be cru­cial.

Dairy in­dus­try body DairyNZ Matthew New­man said milk flows in the Waikato are start­ing to re­duce, but are still ahead of this time last year. How­ever, farm­ers were tak­ing ac­tion to counter the dry spell, send­ing low-pro­duc­ing cows to the works.

Mr New­man said farm­ers had been buy­ing sig­nif­i­cant amounts of the sup­ple­men­tary feed, palm ker­nel.

Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent James Houghton said the longer the big dry goes on the more des­per­ate peo­ple will get.

‘‘I think some farm­ers are start­ing to get des­per­ate now and oth­ers are two weeks away from get­ting des­per­ate.

‘‘In the next two weeks, if we don’t get rain, re­gional coun­cils may start to shut down some of the water takes [for farm­ers].’’

Mr Houghten said ‘‘ab­nor­mal’’ rain­fall is needed to get back to nor­mal soil mois­ture lev­els be­cause they are ‘‘in ma­jor deficit’’.

Mata­mata-Pi­ako has been par­tic­u­larly hard hit by the bone-dry sum­mer.

Group man­ager ser­vices de­liv­ery Fiona Vessey said they’re hold­ing the water alert level at three – a district- wide ban on sprin­klers and re­stricted hand-held hose use.

If no de­cent rain­fall has ar­rived by midMarch, Ms Vessey said they’d be forced into the crit­i­cal alert level, or a ban on wa­ter­ing.

‘‘WeRight now there’s noth­ing on the hori­zon that looks as though it’s go­ing to change.’’

Nearby Hau­raki has a plen­ti­ful water source in the Wai­hou River but district en­gi­neer Ken Thompson said they’re bump­ing up against their max­i­mum take from the Waitakaruru Stream.

Pri­mary In­dus­tries Min­is­ter Nathan Guy can de­clare a drought when the lack of rain­fall has ‘‘eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial im­pact on farm­ing busi­nesses and fam­i­lies and the wider com­mu­nity’’.

DRY-KATO: The lack of rain­fall in the Waikato is near­ing crit­i­cal for farm­ers.

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