Media Release - Rainfall reduces immediate drought risk but the North Island’s East Coast remains a concern

6 January 2009

Rainfall reduces immediate drought risk but the North Island’s East Coast remains a concern

“Rains in late December have helped relieve the immediate risk of drought in parts of East Coast of the North Island. However, existing soil moisture deficits and high daily temperatures in Gisborne-Wairoa and the Hawke’s Bay mean that by late January, conditions could be of concern to Federated Farmers,” said Frank Brenmuhl, Federated Farmers’ adverse events spokesperson.

Good rainfall in the Waikato has provided a degree of relief for that province and the same applies to much of Canterbury. Indeed, North Canterbury suffered a narrow but intense hailstorm Saturday, causing damage to arable crops estimated at a cost of over six figures. This showed the diverse nature of adverse events that Federated Farmers assists its members with.

"Our current focus is on the East Coast of the North Island. The Gisborne-Wairoa province has had below average rainfall for nine of the last twelve months. This includes June and August right through to December. The lack of winter and spring rain has resulted in soil moisture deficits hitting 160 millimetres in many parts of the province. With daily temperatures hovering around 30o Celsius, soil moisture deficit is getting worse.

“Not far behind Gisborne-Wairoa is the Hawke’s Bay. The last significant rainfall in the Hawke’s Bay was on Christmas Eve but the picture is very different north and south of Napier. To the north, good rainfall in December means it is tolerable for the moment but high daily temperatures are now seeing it backslide. To the south of Napier, very little rain fell over much of the province and conditions are dry and hot with mounting soil moisture deficits.

“The ground conditions in some parts of the East Coast resemble concrete. Without a decent fall of rain these two provinces will come under intense pressure around late January.

“Federated Farmers, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, will be keeping an eye on conditions and will be meeting soon if sustained rain does not fall in the next few weeks. This also highlights the pressing need for water storage infrastructure.

“Slow steady rain over a week and upwards of 100 millimetres is needed to soak deep into the soil in order to turn this picture around,” Mr Brenmuhl concluded.

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