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Rain forecast will bring little relief

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
Dry farmland
BIG DRY: Some farms around the Kaipara Harbour, like Julie Cotton’s Tapora property, are severely dry and the entire region is experiencing conditions nearly as bad as last year’s record drought.

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The big dry deepens and it's uncertain how much relief will come from showers forecast later next week.

A drought status hasn't been declared over the region yet, mainly because conditions vary from one area to another - there is extreme soil dryness around the Kaipara Harbour and better soil moisture in parts of Matakana.

There's been no significant rain since Cyclone Lusi's lighter than expected falls on March 15 and conditions are now almost as dry as last year's 100-year drought, a state of the region report from the Auckland Council says.

Most of Rodney is experiencing significant soil moisture deficit.

Patches around the Kaipara Harbour, including Parakai and Helensville up to Tapora, are approaching severe conditions.

Most stream and river flows are also below normal, with more than half of the areas monitored below mean annual low flows.

Showers forecast from Friday into next week are expected to be only light, so there is little serious relief on the horizon.

Conditions are more localised than last year so it can't be considered a drought, Beef and Lamb NZ council chairman and Helensville farmer Andrew McKenzie says.

West coast farms are affected the most, particularly around Dargaville.

Dairy farmers are already drying off some cows - which usually happens in May, sheep and beef stock are being reduced in some areas, supplementary feed is also being put out and stock managed according to the dry conditions.

Water tankers are flat out topping up home supplies and many people are limiting garden watering.

A restricted fire season remains in place with all open fires still needing a fire permit.

"We are extending the restricted fire season until further notice. We hope to go into an open season once we receive significant rain," council principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle says.

"Aucklanders are urged to check for restrictions before they light any fires."

Fires are prohibited on Hauraki Gulf Islands and around forests but permits can still be approved in some parts of the region on a case by case basis, and are free.

To apply for a permit or for further information go to aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/ruralfire or call 09 301 0101 and ask for a rural fire team member.

Anyone who sees a fire or suspicious smoke should call the Fire Service immediately on 111.

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- Rodney Times

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