Dry spell raises Waikato fire risk

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2013

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With hot, dry weather looking set to stay for the rest of January, officials are keeping a watchful eye on farming and warning against fire dangers.

Philip Duncan, head weather analyst at WeatherWatch, said northern New Zealand, including the Waikato and Coromandel, might see very little to no rain at all until February.

And with dry, hot and breezy weather, and little more than scattered showers forecast for the next 10 days or so, the fire danger is now extreme.

In a weather update, Mr Duncan wrote that bush, scrub and grass fires dotted across New Zealand were proof that tinder-dry conditions were causing headaches "and the worst news is that the hottest part of summer is yet to come".

With fires breaking out in Taupo and Orini in the past week, people are being urged to be extra vigilant.

Ruapehu District Council's property team leader, Rebecca Van Orden, said it had about 70 complaints from people fearing fire risks from unkempt neighbouring properties.

"At this time of year under current weather conditions overgrown sections can present a real fire hazard and people should be mindful of the risk to their own property and that of their neighbours and keep vegetation down," she said.

But fire is not the only risk, and the Waikato Regional Council is keeping a close watch on how conditions are affecting farming.

"Soil moisture levels in the region are down on normal for this time of year, so we're keeping an eye on how things go given the potential for any ongoing dry weather to affect farming and other activities," said council chairman and Waikato dairy farmer Peter Buckley.

"I encourage people to use water wisely given the current conditions."

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- Waikato Times

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