Cyclone Lusi a rain letdown for farmers

17:25, Mar 16 2014

Blustery wet weather courtesy of ex-tropical cyclone Lusi delivered welcome rain to Waikato farmers but most are not celebrating yet - saying more is desperately needed.

While some parts of the region were doused with more than 130 millimetres of rain on Saturday, other areas remain tinder-dry with Lusi failing to make much impact on inland rain gauges.

The Waikato civil defence emergency management group controller, Lee Hazlewood, said the region suffered minimal storm damage as Lusi tracked west along the North Island, with emergency services dealing mainly with downed powerlines or fallen branches.

"It definitely turned into a wind event primarily, although there was some localised flooding in the Coromandel but nothing beyond what they handle fairly regularly," Mr Hazlewood said.

"The rainfall was a blessing but I think everyone would have liked a lot more, particularly in central areas.

"Again Coromandel got a reasonable amount but everywhere else it was quite minimal."


Tauhei dairy farmer Blair Jackson hoped for 50mm of rain but instead got 10mm on Saturday and another 2-3mm yesterday. He was up to 90 per cent supplementary feed for his 160 cows and was not confident of more rain this week. "If the forecasters reckoned we were going to get 100 to 150mm over the weekend, then I think the chances of us getting any decent rain this week are pretty slim," Mr Jackson said.

MetService is forecasting showers over large parts of Waikato today and from Wednesday onwards.

"If the rain doesn't come, then there are always options, such as buy more feed in," Mr Jackson said. "In terms of grass growing capacity, there's practically no growth at the moment so things can only get better.

"Put it this way, when the rain hits the ground, then I'll believe it."

North Waikato farmer Peter Buckley received about 17mm of rain over the weekend and said another 50mm over the coming week would be ideal.

Mr Buckley hosted Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy on his farm last week and said his 54-hectare farm was already noticeably greener.

Although the weekend rain offered some farmers respite from the prolonged dry spell, not all farmers benefited from Lusi's dousing, he said.

"Paeroa and Te Aroha got a good amount of rain but I was talking to a farmer who lives within spitting distant of Paeroa and he said he didn't get anything. What rain the region did get was patchy and at least another two inches is needed," Mr Buckley said.

Emergency services in the region were not overly busy, although one person driving in Hamilton's Marama St appeared to get caught out by the wet road on Saturday after speeding around a corner and losing control before swiping a parked car, spinning out of control, hitting a tree and then a fence, with the rear of the car landing centimetres from a house.

MetService meteorologist Elke Louw said rain bands associated with Lusi brought heavy rainfall to parts of Waikato but weakened within a couple of hours. The worst of the inclement weather passed over the region between 8am and 9am yesterday.

Heavy rain warnings were in place for Nelson, Marlborough, South Canterbury and North Otago last night.

Predictions of a storm battering prompted many organisers and promoters to postpone Waikato events at the weekend.

Mr Hazlewood said people's decisions to defer events were "prudent", given the weather forecasts available.

Cambridge Autumn Festival organisers took their celebrations indoors, with the main street carnival shifted inside the Cambridge Town Hall and an outdoor film screening moved to the Cambridge Primary School Hall.

"It was a bit stressful at times but we put together a plan B on Thursday and pretty much everyone turned up," Cambridge Autumn Festival Trust secretary Alan Milton said.

He estimated several thousand people attended the five-day festival.

Meanwhile, Housing NZ reported no weather-related callouts in Waikato over the weekend.

Housing NZ's property services general manager, Marcus Bosch, said it was a "fairly quiet" weekend with the Crown agency putting on extra staff to cope with a predicted increase in callouts.

Waikato Times