Drought fears for HB farmers
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.