Drought fears for HB farm­ers

The Dominion Post - - News - Andre Chumko andre.chumko@stuff.co.nz

Low river lev­els and a hot, dry sum­mer on the cards has some in Hawke’s Bay wor­ried they will run out of wa­ter.

Bill Steven­son, who lives in On­gaonga, 20 kilo­me­tres west of Waipuku­rau, fears po­ten­tial El Nino weather con­di­tions could cause him and oth­ers to lose ac­cess to wa­ter.

Steven­son uses a bore but has had to drill down in re­cent years due to drop­ping wa­ter lev­els, which he blames on the Hawke’s Bay Re­gional Coun­cil al­low­ing ir­ri­ga­tors to take ex­ces­sive amounts.

In 2016, he spent $6800 on a sub­mersible pump to go fur­ther down, as he lost ac­cess to wa­ter. He said two nearby prop­er­ties have spent up to $20,000 on main­tain­ing wa­ter ac­cess.

Wa­ter lev­els this year have been the low­est he has seen them in the 33-odd years he has lived in the set­tle­ment, he said.

‘‘I’m ab­so­lutely shocked at the con­di­tion of the rivers. They’re well down, down to a trickle. At this time of year it’s un­be­liev­able. You ex­pect it in Fe­bru­ary, March, for it to be like that, at this time it’s far too early and my prob­lem is this year we’re go­ing to go into an El Nino sum­mer,’’ he said.

‘‘If this con­tin­ues at its cur­rent rate with the dry year and [the ir­ri­ga­tors] flog all the wa­ter, then all the money we’ve spent to main­tain wa­ter in our houses would be lost . . . and we could be with­out wa­ter.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Hawke’s Bay pres­i­dent Jim Gal­loway shared sim­i­lar con­cerns but about ir­ri­ga­tors.

‘‘If we do get a re­ally dry sum­mer and we don’t get the rain in the head­wa­ters . . . and we do get caught hav­ing wa­ter bans on the ir­ri­gation, it’s go­ing to make things re­ally dif­fi­cult. Es­pe­cially on the veg­etable crop­ping and the pas­toral-hor­ti­cul­tural side.’’

Farm­ers were ‘‘al­ways mak­ing plans B and C’’ to pre­pare for a pos­si­ble dry spell, Gal­loway said.

MetSer­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ge­orgina Grif­fiths said if an El Nino were to kick in, she did not fore­cast any ef­fects be­fore Christ­mas.

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