Rain not enough for struggling farmers
Monday 4 Feb 2013 5:30 p.m.
Much of the North Island is under a severe thunderstorm watch tonight, with flash flooding and even tornadoes a possibility from Auckland to Waikato and down to Taranaki.
For many it's the first rain in days, but it's having little impact on farmers struggling with one of the driest summers on record.
The windscreen wipers were on and the head lights too around the city today, as the rain arrived in Auckland. It was also a gloomy start to the working week in Wellington.
And all of it was a far cry from the record sunshine many enjoyed last month.
NIWA says there were record dry conditions in some regions last month, with less than 10mm of rain falling across Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Unsettled weather meant more rain than usual in Wellington.
Further south, the rain exceeded normal levels by more than 150 percent in some parts, and was more than double in other regions.
But some parts of the South Island – Christchurch, Cheviot, Ashburton, and Lake Tekapo – had their sunniest January on record.
It was also a record breaker in Hawke’s Bay. But the dry conditions are the last thing farmers need, with lamb prices down 30 percent on a year ago.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says the weather is making a difficult situation worse.
“You add that dryness to those lower prices and people are having to just to get rid of stock earlier than they would have otherwise planned to. So there is going to be quite an economic shock to this dry spell,” he says.
Confidence is down among sheep and beef farmers, and that has not been helped by a dollar that's at a five-and-a-half-year high.
“We are not at drought stage yet, but if by the end of this month, end of February if we haven't had decent rain, we are going to have some pretty serious situations to cope with in those dry patches,” says Mr Wills.
Today's rain is expected to last just a couple of days – not nearly enough for farmers.