Time to plan ahead for droughts - expert

Time to plan ahead for droughts - expert

Improving water storage will be key to getting farmers through future droughts, according to one agribusiness expert.

Failing that, it might be time for beef, sheep and dairy to rethink their business model.

North Canterbury is into its second year of drought, with rainfall over the past few months only a third what it normally is.

"They've had to destock their land, there is no income and they have to make rational decisions about where they will make money for their family," Waikato University's Jacqueline Rowarth told Paul Henry this morning.

"If we're moving into an era of droughts which means we can't grow grass, then we have to reconsider the uses for the land."

Dairy, beef and sheep farming are very water-intensive.

"Water storage and water management must be the way of the future, given that our economy is still based on primary production, whatever you think about it and whatever we've tried to do to diversify," says Prof Rowarth.

With winters providing plenty of water, she's calling for more long-term planning to ensure not all of it is wasted.

"It should be paramount...if we don't manage our copious water supplies well, then some other country will come and do it for us."

Meanwhile a bit further south in Ashburton, the council is selling land to water bottlers, who have permission to extract 1.4 billion litres a year.