Farmers adjust to dry conditions
A drought gripping the North Island has been hailed as the worst in 70 years, with scientists saying the crisis is far from over both for now and in years to come.
While Southland does not yet face such a crisis, continued dry weather is reducing river levels and forcing farmers to delve into their winter feed reserves.
With no significant rain predicted until Friday, Environment Southland is closely monitoring river and groundwater levels and some irrigators and industries in the region have had to stop drawing water under the terms of their consents.
The regional council's environmental management director Warren Tuckey said staff met twice last week to assess the situation and the council was working with the Rural Support Trust and Southland Fish and Game to assess the wider impact on the region.
If the prolonged dry period continued as forecast, the council would convene its water shortage response group this week, he said.
Environment Southland hydrologists said the Aparima River at Dunrobin was at a 16-year low.
Te Anau Fish & Game ranger Bill Jarvie said some rivers had become too low to fish in and trout were being salvaged as more became stranded. They were being salvaged in rivers in Northern Southland, primarily Eyre Creek near Athol and the Whitestone, near Te Anau, he said.
Meanwhile, farmers in Southland and Otago were delving into winter feed reserves as they waited for heavy rainfall.
Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said a good February meant supplies of winter feed were good and farmers were now using them.
Although dry conditions were getting worse every day, there was no drought in the region and farmers were expecting rain soon, he said.
The dry weather would be discussed at the Federated Farmers executive meeting in Invercargill today, he said.
Federated Farmers Otago president Stephen Korteweg said parts of Otago were much drier than usual.
Some dairy farmers were considering drying off cows and others were milking less regularly.
"No significant rain is predicted until the end of March but we [farmers] are hoping this is wrong and we get some sooner."
MetService forecaster Stephen Glassey said Southland could expect to get a few light showers early this morning but nothing significant was on the horizon for the rest of the week.
The forecast for Otago was similar, he said.
"The further north you go from Southland, the drier it gets, with less chance of rain."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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