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Drought Declaration Sought for Hawke’s Bay

Media Release

5 March 2013

Drought Declaration Sought for Hawke’s Bay

The Government is being asked to formally declare the Hawke’s Bay region as a drought zone, following a multi-agency meeting of rural representatives, councils and Ministry of Primary Industries at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council in Napier today.

“We have been in a process for some weeks, monitoring the situation and meeting with key rural, bank and government interests, but in the last two weeks the dry situation has started to bite and there is no sign of rain relief in the near future,” says HBRC Chairman Fenton Wilson.

In 2009-09 Hawke’s Bay drought, there was very little rain in March and April, and there is concern that the region is on the cusp of a similar situation. While many farmers are in a reasonable financial situation this season generally following two good summers, the current dry spell will adversely impact on next year.

“By requesting the Minister for a drought declaration, various assistance provisions can be triggered for farmers facing more severe hardship.”

“North of Napier is probably OK but south of Napier is pretty serious,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President and local farmer who spoke at the meeting.

“Hawke’s Bay is accustomed for this type of event, so most farmers have planned and are getting on reasonably well.

Hawke’s Bay rural representatives say that the situation is similar to 2008, although a dry spring and ample warning from NIWA means that many people are better prepared than last time. It is currently the driest 6 month period in Hawke’s Bay since 1950.

The more serious concern for Hawke’s Bay farmers is setting themselves up with enough feed to get through winter.

Farmers’ representatives have met with Craig Foss, MP for Tukituki and he wants to ensure Hawke’s Bay is getting support from the government.

The fruit industry is coping but water becomes short it will set in problems for next season.

The concern about farmers’ stress levels is widespread amongst the organisations at the meeting, and the East Coast Rural Support Trust is keeping an eye on people’s welfare.

“We want people to take care of themselves and each other, as there is plenty of support out there to help farmers get through this situation,” said Mike Barham, Hawke’s Bay coordinator, East Coast Rural Support.

Farmers are advised that many companies and agencies are willing to assist with financial arrangements if requested. Farmers can also approach the East Coast Rural Support Trust or their banks if they are facing hardship. They are also advised to follow the dry weather advice of their industry organisations, and other agencies -

• The East Coast Rural Support Trust can be contacted on 0800 787 254

• Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has advice notes on drought on www.mpi.govt.nz/environment-natural-resources/funding-programmes/primary-sector-recovery/droughts/dry-conditions-2012-13-faqs

• Beef+Lamb NZ dry management tool kit - www.beeflambnz.com/farm/tools-resources/dry-management-toolkit/DairyNZ

• Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) as advice note available - ”Response of Maize to Drought Stress” - www.far.org.nz/index.php/arable-update/entry/no-57-response-of-maize-to-drought-stress

• Federated Farmers offers an NZ wide 0800 DROUGHT line (0800 376 844)

Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from a wide range of organisations including the regional council, district councils, rural support trust, Ministry for Primary Industries, Dairy NZ, Federated Farmers, Beef+Lamb and Ministry of Social Development. It was useful for information sharing.

An active drought committee is being formed. A formal request was made for a drought declaration and MPI representatives will be taking information from today’s meeting to brief the Minister.


Summary of the situation

Rainfall

Rainfall in any substantial quantities is not expected anytime soon. Last rainfall was on 5 February of around 10 mm.


Soil moisture

All soil moisture sites are recording very low.


Forecast

NIWA seasonal forecast March to May 2013

o Rainfall, near normal

o Temperature – near to above average

o Soil moisture – near to below normal

o River flows – near to below normal


River levels

Most river levels are low. With the lack of westerly systems, rivers are not getting the rainfall from the west that typically fall in the ranges and charge the rivers. Bans on irrigation takes are on main rivers. Tukituki, Awanui, Mohaka and Ngaruroro Rivers and the Irongate Stream are ranked at their lowest levels on records taken since 1988. Tutaekuri River is holding which is typical for the river.


Aquifer levels

With river levels down, the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Aquifers are not being recharged, so there are


Irrigation

Irrigation bans are in force on all the main rivers. As a model, the Twyford user group was formed by local growers and has worked closely with HBRC to coordinate and share water in the Raupare to avoid the stream going on ban, and so far the regime is working.


Fire risk

High with complete fire bans in place in CHB, Hastings districts.


ENDS


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