Rain a welcome Christmas gift for farmers, but more needed in future

This week's heavy rain was welcome news for Timaru farmer Warren Darling.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

This week's heavy rain was welcome news for Timaru farmer Warren Darling.

Farmers dealing with the lingering effects of last summer's drought are celebrating an early Christmas gift after parched South Canterbury land was drenched by a downpour.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers dairy chairman Ryan O'Sullivan said his farm near Fairlie had received about 25mm of soaking rain on Wednesday night.

Most other farmers he had spoken to in the region had a similar amount while the rural Waimate area of Waihaorunga had received a 50mm dumping, he said.

"It's great but it's probably not going to benefit a lot of dry land pasture unless we keep getting follow-up rains."

"In terms of rivers I can't see it making a significant difference. Most of the catchment areas are so dry the water would have just absorbed into the ground rather than running off the hills.

"At least it shows that it can rain this summer, it's not just going to be wall to wall dry El Nino, there is the potential for relief."

Makihihi farmer Colin Hurst said the rain was the best of news for crop and seed farmers.

His farm received 30mm on Tuesday night and then another 15mm on Wednesday night.

"That's a pretty significant rainfall event and it will make a huge difference to crops like kale and fodder beet in particular.

"It's a good early Christmas present."

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Hurst said not everyone in South Canterbury had received the same amount of rain this week as conditions had generally been very patchy.

"We've been quite concerned about the idea that farmers will have to offload stock because the market for them has just crashed.

"It's not a saviour but at least this gives them a bit of breathing space."

Timaru farmer Warren Darling said it was good to see the rain, and its timing was perfect.

According to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Standardised Precipitation Index, the majority of South Canterbury had been classed as 'moderately dry', while some inland areas of the region had been given a 'severely dry' classification.

The wet weather had also been welcomed by South Canterbury firefighters.

A total fire ban will come into force for the Rangitata Gorge, Mackenzie Basin, and Hakataramea Valley on December 19.

Waimate fire chief Duncan Lyall said the district had been "amazingly dry" recently, and the rain was excellent news.

However, conditions were still dangerous, he warned.

"It won't take much for it to dry up again."

For Twizel fire chief Simon Fox, any rain was good for the Mackenzie District.

"It will certainly help in the short term."

Whether it would have any long term impact was another matter.

The lack of rain earlier in the year had also helped, as there had been reduced vegetation growth and therefore less fuel for fires, he said.

MetService meteorologist Peter Little said their rainfall gauges suggested Fairlie had received 13mm of rain in the 24 hours ending Thursday morning.

Timaru got 10mm while Mt Cook Village got 8mm, Little said.

A few short showers might disrupt weekend activities for a time on Saturday but otherwise the forecast for the weekend was fine.

A northwesterly wind was forecast to bake South Canterbury on Monday, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius forecast.

 - Stuff

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