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Farmers Welcome Rain Reprieve



6 February 2013

Farmers Welcome Rain Reprieve

With rain greeting the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Nathan Guy, in the Hawke’s Bay yesterday, Federated Farmers has welcomed a brief break in the current dry spell. A national summary is appended to this release.

“The rain only rolled into the Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne yesterday morning but drizzle continued throughout most of the day (Tuesday, 5 February),” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“As it takes time to soften parched soils, gentle steady rain is far better than a sudden heavy downpour.

“While Wellington and urban Auckland received a good amount of rain on Monday (February 4), that picture becomes patchier when you look at things on a national basis.

“At this time of the year plants can lose over 6mm of water every day through transpiration. While we have been granted several weeks’ breathing room in the Hawke’s Bay, elsewhere, it may only be a few days.

“Another front like the one we just had could almost get farmers through to early autumn.

“Don’t get me wrong. This is a mild El Nino summer exactly as predicted so the rain is a reprieve that will help regenerate grass, crops and morale. It will have no immediate impact on dead grass on dry slopes until autumn kicks growth off.

“The rains should help to recharge some farm dams and waterways and this could take the pressure of irrigation bans in some parts of the country.

“It also seems inviting ‘our’ Minister is Federated Farmers version of a rain dance. It happened before with the Hon Jim Anderton and it happened yesterday to the Hon Nathan Guy in the Hawke’s Bay. Any Minister who brings the ‘weather with you’ is welcome.

“Minister Guy was briefed on the transformational Ruataniwha water storage project; arguably the Hawke’s Bay’s major climate adaptation tool. It is one that could lift farm output here by $160 million each year creating 632 new full time equivalent jobs.

“Ruataniwha is only one project out of around 11 nationwide. Storing water in times of plenty to use in times of shortage is a ridiculously simple strategy; especially when the secret recipe to our economy is ‘just add water,’” Mr Wills concluded.

This was echoed by Federated Farmers Wairarapa provincial president, Jamie Falloon, who reports 40mm to 60mm of rain falling in the Wairarapa over 4 and 5 February.

“This is just what the doctor ordered with rain continuing well into yesterday morning (Tuesday, 5 February),” Mr Falloon added.

“We were getting anxious so the rain has a double benefit. It not only boosts grass and crop growth but reduces the risk of shrub and pasture fire.

“It was alarming to see how quickly pasture went from green to brown over the last hot dry week. On my farm, we have received a third of our summer average rain but average daily temperatures for the past ten days has been 29 degrees.

“We were losing 6.6mm every day from soils and our pasture and needed at least 50mm to make a difference. That is what we are on track to get and it is a big relief for those who have had good rain,” Mr Falloon concluded.


Around 50mm fell on the farm of provincial president, Matt Long, after recording only 0.5mm to date. Good rainfall for Northland was centred on the Bay of Islands but little has fallen towards the west, especially the north and south.

The picture here is patchy. Auckland Vice-President, Alan Cole, recorded 58mm in the past few days massively up on 10mm for all of January. Farmers in the north west of the Auckland province have reported only around 5mm of rain.

Across the Waikato, between 10-50mm of rain fell compared to January’s 15mm. Many dairy farms are now on once a day milking and dry stock farms were getting short of feed. “More rain is needed but this is welcome,” said provincial president James Houghton.

Farmers report 20mm of rain towards Thames but more is desperately needed given strong winds, high temperatures and humidity. “All the puddles have gone,” observed Ciaran Tully yesterday (5 February); Federated Farmers Sharemilkers chairman.

Bay of Plenty:
About 40mm fell on provincial president John Scrimgeour’s farm in Te Puke and this was believed to be reasonably wide spread.

About 16mm fell in Rotorua but towards the south of the district it was more like 5mm offering very little relief, “it settled the dust”, observed provincial president, Neil Heather.

Reasonably steady rain started falling from 11am on Tuesday 5 February says provincial president Peter Jex-Blake. “This is a huge morale boost after a long dry spell,” he added.

Hawke’s Bay:
Widespread steady rain fell from 6am yesterday (5 February), with 20mm recorded at Bruce Wills’ farm up until 9am. On farms around Hastings, 30mm had been recorded by mid-afternoon. Drizzle continued to fall in Napier well into the late afternoon with the temperature dropping to 9 degrees.

Over 50mm of rain fell on the central Taranaki farm of provincial president Harvey Leach. On farms around Hawera around 40mm was reported, putting a smile on the face of farmers. Drizzle continued to fall on 5 February and a southerly prevented evaporation.

Ruapehu got “a lovely drenching” according to provincial president, Lyn Neeson. A kind December meant they had spare feed while the grass cover had yet to burn off despite 33 degree temperatures being recorded last week; “This rain should take the pressure off farmers trying to sell stock in a dropping market.”

By the morning of 5 February, 37mm of rain was recorded at the farm of provincial president Richard Murfitt. More rain has fallen throughout yesterday (5 February) but was clearing towards late afternoon.

Around 25mm fell yesterday on some farms in and around the province.

It seems 40-50mm has fallen over much of the province, according to Alistair Polson, former Federated Farmers National President, Special Agricultural Trade Envoy and Chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. North of Wanganui, over 70mm was recorded on one farm.

Rainfall has delivered 40-60mm which seems widespread. The main dry areas are the eastern hills towards the coast. Irrigators had been restricted out of the river takes over the whole region due to only a third of the summer average rain being received.

Due to Marlborough’s various micro-climates, it is hard to generalise but 20mm fell at Greg Harris’ farm; the Marlborough Meat & Fibre chairperson. He commented that transpiration could see this lost in a matter of days but if it fell in more sheltered valleys, it would be extremely beneficial because “all rain is welcome.” He believed the rain ought to aid colleagues in horticulture as well as viticulture.

Forecaster’s were predicting 25-31mm of rain.

Golden Bay:
Around 60mm of rain has fallen at provincial president Graham Ball’s farm, with other farmers reporting up to 50mm. He felt “this has saved the bacon for a few farmers”.

North Canterbury:
Provincial president Neil Stott reports around 35mm falling at his property in Darfield.

Mid Canterbury:
Provincial president Chris Allen reports around 22mm towards the coast, 28mm half way up the plains and 50mm in the Canterbury foothills, “Irrigation is proving its worth by tiding farmers over between rain events”.

South Canterbury:
Intense afternoon heat over the past ten days has resulted in daily transpiration of +5mm. Good rains at beginning of January mean good pasture reserves. Irrigation is in full swing with the Opuha Dam supplying irrigators with secure water reserves through to the end of the irrigation season. Crop yields are at record levels without the need for constant use of driers, as in the past two years.

West Coast:
Around 25mm was reported so far with steady rain at the farm of provincial president, Katie Milne. “This will help keep the wolves from the door for us,” Mrs Milne added.

North Otago:
Provincial president, Richard Strowger, reports that North Otago is having another great season with very good soil moisture levels. The rains have added a further 20mm.

Around 30mm has fallen on the farm of provincial president, Stephen Korteweg. The current cool southerly harks back to a cooler than normal summer meaning water is soaking in. He reports a lot of happy people and animals.


Around 15mm fell on provincial president Russell MacPherson’s farm that “was a very welcome sight.”


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