It was more a drizzle than a downpour, but yesterday's rain was enough to get Jacqui and Rob FitzGerald reaching for their camera.
But weather forecasters say it was not enough to break New Zealand's worst drought in 70 years. "It's not something I'd normally take pictures of, but it's been a long time since we've seen any," Mrs FitzGerald said as her three children, Alex, 8, Boyd, 7 and Kate, 6, donned raincoats to enjoy the light rainfall.
Rain began falling over the FitzGerald's 53-hectare dairy farm, south of Te Awamutu, about noon yesterday, delivering about 5mm of liquid relief.
It was the first significant rainfall since early last month, but Mr FitzGerald said about a week of consistent rain was needed to ease the region's drought conditions.
To date, the relentless dry spell has cost the FitzGeralds about $50,000, with the couple bringing in silage to feed their 180-cow herd.
"I've seen it dry before but this has happened so fast; in January everything was looking fabulous," Mr FitzGerald said.
The couple recently applied for rural assistance payments (RAPs) to help cover the family-of-five's living expenses, but Mr FitzGerald said he tried not to let the weather get to him.
"If anything, it makes you more determined. It puts pressure on your whole operation but it's just the nature of the game. Today's rain isn't a game breaker but at least it's a break from the hot dry weather we've been getting day after day."
MetService said rain began falling over large parts of Waikato from early yesterday, but it wasn't enough to break weeks of drought.
In Hamilton, 4.8mm of rain fell, with residents in Rototuna and Flagstaff woken in the early hours to hard rain, but that lasted only about 10 minutes.
South of the city, in Puniu, 7mm fell.
Elsewhere, Raglan got 9mm, Mercer 10.5mm, Paeroa 11.5mm and Castle Rock, west of Whitianga, 20mm.
"There will be enough to help [farmers], but we're not expecting any drought-breaking rain," meteorologist Nicole Ranger said.
Climate scientist Jim Salinger said it was the worst drought in New Zealand in 70 years due to its severity and spread.
Three days of consistent rain was needed to end the drought and get grass growing again, but if it did not come before May the "damage will already be done" for winter, he said.
The MetService's 10-day forecast is predicting mainly fine weather for the Waikato, with the possibility of rain in some areas today and tomorrow.
Waikato Regional Council chairman and dairy farmer Peter Buckley said although the weekend's rain wasn't a "drought-breaker" it was welcome.
He said his Te Kauwhata property had about 10mm of rain but up to seven days of consistent rain was needed.
"If we don't get some follow-up rain, then a lot of this rain will disappear. Today's rain has made things more pleasant but what we need is a week of this."
Slippery roads make driving difficult, page 2, City folk will feel impact of drought say farmers, page 4
- © Fairfax NZ News
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