Northland farmers in dire straits if drought continues

By Dean Nathan

Solid rain today in Northland is not enough to break the region's drought with the dairy industry struggling after two dry summers.  Farmers are well aware they will be in dire straits if there is not enough rain this coming winter. 

It has been quite a while since farms in the Hikurangi catchment got a good dousing of rain.

"It's been a long time, it's been dry for like, for l don’t know, two, three, four, five months.  So we’re lucky to get this rain, hopefully it hangs around for a little bit and then the boss won’t have to spend any more money on feed," Ashton Apiata of Ngāti Kawa and Ngāti Rāhiri says.

Ten years have passed since water tankers last lined up here under drought conditions to supply Fonterra's dairy factory at Kauri which was out of water.  

"They're taking in about a million litres a day and (have been) for six weeks now, and there's still plenty of water in the lake and it's serving a purpose to keep the company going," farmer Edwin Smith says.

Smith’s family have farmed here for four generations.  He says the country needs to take better care of our water supply.

"If we don’t get enough rain this winter, heaven forbid what's going to happen next summer because we’ve had two dry summers now and this is a culmination of what's happened now.  We’re going to be in dire straits."

In addition to forecasts provided by MetService, the long-range lunar weather forecaster Ken Ring predicts the heaviest rainfall around the end of June will finally break the drought across the region.

"Oh it's huge, it's huge, getting rain is huge.  Our cows have got to eat grass, and if there's no grass there's no milk.  If there's no milk, there's no money," Apiata says.