Forecast raises threat of drought in Hawke's Bay

TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2012

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Hawke's Bay is heading for a drought, with no relief, only drizzle, in sight.

Of the 18.4 millimetres of rain that had fallen in Hawke's Bay so far this month, almost all fell on Christmas Eve - when 15.4mm was recorded at Napier Airport, MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said.

A similar pattern was recorded in preliminary figures across Hawke's Bay.

The region would usually have had up to three times the December rainfall it had recorded so far this month, she said.

There was "no significant relief on the horizon", with only drizzle forecast before and during the New Year's period.

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills said the dryness was affecting most of the east coast of the North Island.

"If we don't get substantial rain sometime in the next month, we will be looking at drought conditions."

Although it was great for holidaymakers, it was not good for farmers who were already killing or selling stock.

"Particularly Hastings south to Wairarapa is more brown than green," he said.

His farm, 30 minutes from Napier and in the hills, had 30mm of rain on Christmas Eve.

"The little bit of rain we have had is a great start, but in my view most of the east coast needs 100-odd millimetres of good soaking rain to take away the concerns farmers have."

He said Hawke's Bay farmers were used to dry conditions, but it was causing concern that the weather that the region was experiencing now was more common in February.

"People are concerned - it's early for it to be dry."

Market gardeners were also feeling the strain, with Hawke's Bay Regional Council already restricting water use for some growers.

"Not only is it not falling from the sky, but our irrigation systems are under pressure."

As farmers' and growers' production fell, so did their income, meaning the dry weather would also affect city businesses because there was less money to spend.

The long-term forecast, however, was not picking a serious drought, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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