Rainfall benefits some regions

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 16:37 19/03/2013

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The bottom of the North Island and top of the South Island were the big beneficiaries of the trough which brought rain to a drought-ravaged country during the past few days.

Some farmers in Wairarapa and Manawatu reported receiving 100mm of rain, but some in Waikato got just 6mm and only a few patchy showers fell in Hawke's Bay.

By last week drought had been declared throughout the North Island and a close eye was being kept on the South Island where parts of the normally well-wastered West Coast were considered very dry.

Whether celebrating a good downpour in the past few days, or disappointed that too little had fallen, farmers throughout the country emphasised they needed more rain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said further follow-up rains were needed next week and beyond for grass growth and to allow soils to recharge. In most regions a few weeks of warm weather remained to allow for pasture growth.
The outlook from MetService meteorologist John Law was less hopeful than farmers may have wished.

Going through tomorrow, high pressure would be building back from the west and the last of the rain would clear away from most of the country, he said. Some showers could linger around northern Hawke's Bay and the East Cape.
Heading into Sunday another front was pushing in from the west, but it was more likely to affect Southland, Westland and Fiordland than anywhere else.

"At the moment it looks like a weak front between two areas of high pressure," Law said. But he also noted the models used to predict the weather had high levels of variation when they looked five to six days ahead.
In Wairarapa, Federated Farmers provincial president Jamie Falloon said overnight 60-100mm of rain had fallen through most of the Wairarapa valley.

"It's going to kick start the whole thing into life. It's enough to make a real difference for us," he said.
"It's broken the back of the drought and if we get some follow-up rain we will be okay, but winter is still going to be a challenge."

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president Andrew Hoggard said he had received nearly 100mm on his farm just north of Feilding, and he expected farmers hard hit by the drought in the hills behind his property would have received similar amounts. 

"That will be helping them out immensely."

But the rainfall had been patchy in the region and had petered out before getting to other farms desperately in need of rain in the hills towards Taihape, where only 5-10mm fell.

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 It could still take two weeks for grass to come away in areas which received good rainfall, but if it did farmers might be able to hold some stock back from the meatworks, which might lift prices. Because of the drought many farmers had been sending stock away at lower weights than usual, and earning less for them.

Waikato Federated Farmers provincial president James Houghton said he had heard reports of 6-35mm of rain falling on farms in the region.

"It's going to green things up, but we need a lot more very shortly," he said.

North Canterbury Federated Farmers provincial president Neil Stott recorded around 45mm of rain at his Darfield property but thought smaller amounts would have fallen closer to the coast.

It would be enough for some farms to become green, but not enough to keep the grass growing, Stott said. Also, given the time of year, the region was changing from being dry with nothing growing, to  being freezing when nothing would grow.

At the top of the South Island the news was better, with nearly all rural and urban water restrictions lifted in the Tasman district.

A second round of rain yesterday evening and overnight had been enough to boost river levels and provide at least a two week buffer, Tasman dry weather taskforce convenor Dennis Bush-King said.

The areas which still had some restrictions took water from deep aquifers which took some time to respond to rain.
NIWA's soil moisture deficit map as at 9am today shows the areas of extreme deficit - defined as having a deficit of at least 130mm -  getting smaller but still covering much of the lower North Island, a central area between Taupo and the Firth of Thames, and lower Northland, along with a few localities in the South Island.

Most of the rest of the North Island and a big chunk of the South Island have a significant deficit - from 110-130mm.

NIWA climate analyst Petra Chappell said Masterton received 63mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am, bringing its soil moisture deficit down from 144mm to 81mm, taking it below the significant category.

Stratford in Taranaki was also below the significant category after 39mm of rain lowered its deficit to 95mm.

In Waikato the 33mm that fell on Ruakura in the 24 hours to 9am today was enough to lower its deficit to 124mm, but it remained in significant deficit.

Eastern coastal areas of Northland, such as Whangarei, had little rain and continued to have a soil moisture deficit of around 140mm. Gisborne had no rain in the past few days and continued to have a deficit of 139mm, while Napier had only around 5mm in the day or two up to 9am and had a deficit of about 145mm.

- Stuff

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