Waikato deluge proves a blessing and a burden

17:50, Dec 05 2013
Federated Farmers president James Houghton
FINGERS CROSSED: Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton on his property at Pukeatua.

Heavy rain has been a blessing for those working the land but a burden for emergency services across the Waikato region this week.

Firefighters rescued a woman after her car was trapped in rising floodwaters near Whitianga yesterday.

Rain flooded the Tairua-Whitianga Rd halfway between the and the 309 Rd just after noon and was high enough to strand a vehicle.

The woman called emergency services from her car and the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade used a four-wheel-drive to reach her.

MetService meteorologist John Law said the change in the weather was brought in by "a real moist and humid northerly flow" and an an area of low pressure to the west.

"That's dragging the air in from the sub-tropics, and that's bringing a fair bit of moisture, cloud, and real humid and muggy conditions."


It was a change from the weather last month when Hamilton hit a top temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, the third-highest November temperature since records began in 1990.

It was welcome news for farmers in the Waikato, Matamata-Piako and Waipa Districts, where the soil was drying out and last season's drought was beginning to play on farmers' minds.

According to National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) data from December 1, soil moisture deficit in those districts got to around 50 per cent of storage capacity, which is drier than usual for the time of the year.

National Climate Centre senior scientist Dr Darren King said recent rainfall would have helped.

"The situation can change quite quickly if we have significant rainfall events, as we have experienced over the past 48 hours," he said.

A "vigilant eye" would have to be kept on moisture levels as they reacted to weather conditions on a daily to weekly basis.

Niwa's seasonal outlook for the Waikato summer was for average to above-average temperatures, and normal soil moisture, but Dr King said northerly flows could bring more rain.

MetService's Mr Law predicted cloud and "the odd light shower" as the front moved on throughout today.

Saturday morning is expected to bring rain clearing for the afternoon, although Sunday may bring showers.

The outlook for December was average or just above average temperatures, and Hamilton was due for an average rainfall of about 120mm for the month. 



Waikato Federated Farmers president James Houghton was delighted to see this week's heavy rain arrive.

The gauge on his Pukeatua area farm measured over 20mm before 10.30 Thursday morning.

"If it continues raining like it is today it's basically going to keep grass growing for another three weeks.

"We should be right until new year," he said.

Plus it was well timed to boost the growth of supplement crops, which will feed stock in the event of a dry summer.

Water tables were low, and the past 12 months had only brought around half of the usual annual rainfall, said Mr Houghton.

He said farmers would be wishing for about three more "nice tropical storms to come through about a month apart" - or at least regular, normal rainfall - and he urged everyone to manage water sensibly.

In the Coromandel, water tanks were well topped-up. "If [their tanks] aren't full by now, then they need to look at their spouting," said Doug Morrison, of Coromandel Water Services.

He thought Coromandel residents reliant on rainwater could relax for about six weeks after the most recent downpour.

Waikato Water and Cartage owner Barry Brewer said people in the region should be set until Christmas.

Waikato Times