Eyes on the skies dry weather continues

Weekend rain did nothing to allay fears of another Waikato drought as dry conditions throughout the region look set to deepen.

Conditions have reached similar levels to last year and farmers hoped a bout of steady rain would stave it off.

Dairy New Zealand regional team manager Craig McBeth said: "If we don't get significant rain, following up from the little bit of rain we got over the weekend, things are going to get rapidly drier," he said.

Waikato was thrown into a drought in March 2013 but Mr McBeth said the conditions now were more localised throughout the region and they would keep a "very close eye" on it.

Ngahinapouri dairy farmer Gavin Shailer said he had already reduced stock numbers and milk production was down.

"That grass gets hammered to a level that's hard to recover so everything is very short. They eat it down and hammer it again, really short and you get into a rut."

He got 18mm of rain that was "quite substantial" at the weekend and has brought some life back to the grass.

"If there was some follow up, it would mean we might get out of the rut but unless there is a follow up we will still be in the same spot and we won't be able to recover."

Rural support trust chairman Neil Bateup said farmers had learned some lessons over the past couple of years. "They know how to handle situations better that they have in the past."

Farmers were anxious to see rain.

"My gut feeling is that the weather pattern is different to last year's weather pattern. This year there have been rain events around and various places have got rain and the highs are not sitting over for any period of time."

Warm wet weather during Christmas promoted good growth but Waipa district principal rural fire officer Chuck Davis said it had dried off and was a potential fire risk.

"Look at the grass on the side of the road. You only need an hour of wind," he said. "It's just like putting clothes on the line, they're dry within an hour if you've got a nice windy day and the sun behind it, it's ready to go again."

Waipa was in the middle of a restricted fire season.

"That dry weather certainly brought us to the edge of restricting the issue of all permits completely."

Rainfall in the weekend varied across the Waikato and regional council rainfall data showed 9.5mm of rain fell at the Te Kuiti pumping station on Saturday, 6.5mm at Waingaro, 19.5mm in Hauturu near Kawhia and 12.5 at the Te Aroha racecourse.

Principal rural fire officer for Waikato district Andy Baker said people had to be more vigilant Del Read from Thames Valley said the eastern side of his region got far more rain than the west but "any is better than none".

"It's still very dry out there despite the amount of rain and we're monitoring the fire danger on a daily basis."

Waikato Times