Drought builds in South Canterbury

NZ Stuff
2 January 2015
Jack Montgombrite

FEELING THE HEAT: A map from Niwa shows how dry the South Island is becoming.

Farming leaders say a drought is becoming apparent in South Canterbury and farmers should prepare for the worst.

South Canterbury Rural Support trust chairman David Hewson said yesterday the region could be in for its first drought in a decade if dry weather continued.

Rain on New Year’s Eve was nowhere near sufficient.

“We need days of rain.”

Hewson said he regularly discussed rural issues with the Ministry of Primary Industries, and he would ask officials about declaring a drought later in the month.

In the meantime, it was important farmers made preparations for a drought as early as possible rather than worrying about what might be happening.

“Being proactive and being in control is better for people.

“Worrying makes it worse.”

Hewson believed many farmers had already acted to prepare themselves for a drought, with some dairy farmers culling their lowest-performing cows sooner than usual.

The trust would hold a meeting in late January to explain the situation to rural professionals including farm advisers and bankers. Farmers who needed advice about how to cope with the dry conditions could call the trust’s confidential hotline, 0800 787 254.

Federated Farmers’ South Canterbury president Ivon Hurst said the region appeared to be at the beginning of a drought, and he had attended the trust’s meeting to discuss difficulties farmers might have coping.

Hurst did not believe a separate local drought committee needed to be formed immediately.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) drought guide lists 12 conditions which determine its decision to declare a drought, including rainfall and soil moisture levels, and river and dam levels.

MPI may offer rural support trusts government assistance in a “medium-scale” or “large-scale” drought.

 – The Timaru Herald