Farmers call for official drought declaration

Farmers call for official drought declaration

After months with little or no rainfall, farmers on Banks Peninsula are calling on the Government to declare an official drought.

Many are sending stock out of the region for grazing or buying in expensive winter feed, and they say that's having a major impact financially.

Francis Help's Flea Bay farm boasts uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean.

In a cruel twist, water is its scarcest resource this autumn, rendering his farm dry and barren.

"It shouldn't look like this," he says.

"This is the cold side of Banks Peninsula. This should be green, the paddocks around us should be cattle tucker. It should have big fat black and white Hereford cows walking around it."

His 1300 acre farm has been in the grips of a severe drought for more than 18 months now, and Mr Help wants the minister to declare a drought for the area.

Normally he'd run 1100 ewes and 80 head of cattle, but the drought has meant he's had to slash stock numbers by 25 percent.

And he has sent stock away to Southland for grazing, costing hundreds of dollars a week.

He says it's stressful not only financially, but emotionally.

"I went away last week to a conference but I couldn't concentrate," Mr Help says.

"I kept thinking 'what the hell's happening at home?'"

Further around the Peninsula at Long Bay, it's a similar story for Andrew Youngson.

A caretaker at the Hinewai Reserve, he says the drought is even taking a toll on the native bush.

"It's getting drier and drier," he says.

"We have a few little [millimetres] here and there, but a lot of things like the Mahoe and pepperwoods are wilting.

"It depends on where you go on the reserve but some places are a lot drier than others."

And it's not just the outer bays feeling the pinch in Akaroa -- the Christchurch City Council is considering imposing water restrictions, a move they'd normally only have to make at the height of summer.