New February climate outlook offers little respite for parched regions

A new climate outlook report has little good news for farmers coping with near-drought conditions.

Very dry conditions across some parts of the country are starting to take their toll on farmers and growers, with Northland, Waikato and parts of Canterbury among the worst affected.

Milk production is down in some areas, and many farmers are using supplementary feed for stock earlier than usual.

A new February climate outlook from WeatherWatch says the dry weather which is stuck in place over the North Island will likely remain that way for much of the month. 

The forecaster, using IBM data, projects a drier than average trend will continue across the North Island for at least half to two-thirds of the month, with potential it could linger even longer

The report said there was a possibility that high pressure may be sinking further south which not only gives the lower and western South Island a break from the wind and changeable weather, but also a chance of sub-tropical weather sliding further towards northern NZ.

"Sub-tropical weather brings with it higher humidity and a higher chance of cloud with an increased chance of showers. 

It also tends to bring more easterlies which gives eastern areas a chance to cool down a little after weeks of scorching westerlies," it said. 

However, a southerly change in the first week of February may bring some welcome rain to dry eastern areas of the South Island, including the upper South Island and North Canterbury,

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor was keeping a close eye on the dry conditions.

In a statement, O'Connor said he was receiving regular updates from officials at the Ministry for Primary Industries, who had been monitoring conditions around the country over the last few months.

"If [it] reaches a point where the situation is beyond the community's ability to continue farming or growing through it, then I would assess whether declaring an adverse event is warranted. This would trigger government financial assistance for recovery support," he said.

Agricultural industry leaders met in Waikato on Tuesday to discuss the worsening dry conditions and the impact on farmers.

The group is due to meet again in two weeks.