Desperation mounts in Northland as drought continues

It may take Northland up to two years to recover from the severe drought it is experiencing.

With bone dry conditions, Kaipara District Council Mayor Dr Jason Smith says the situation is "grim".

"We need a full metre - that's a thousand millimetres of rain - between now and October to give us any chance of a decent recovery here," Dr Smith told The AM Show on Tuesday.

He said the chances of getting that amount of rain looked "very unlikely right now".

"Things are very grim here in the north. We've had only a hundred millimetres of rain in Kaipara since December, so that's four inches of rain. Needing a whole metre between now and October is a big ask right now."

According to Weather Watch, Northland was set to get below-average rainfall totals in the coming weeks, giving farmers little to be optimistic about.

And it's not just the immediate future that will be of concern.

"Next summer is looking very, very serious," said Dr Smith. 

"We have so many challenges across so many levels simply because the rain has not been falling."

The main dam for Whangarei District and Whangarei City was down to 44 percent of its water level and would need a metre of rain to recover, Dr Smith said. Another dam that feeds Maungaturoto would need two years' worth of rain to recover.

Farmers in Northland have been running short of feed as the drought shows no signs of abating, while the impact of COVID-19 has made things even tougher.

Dr Smith said everyone in the region will need to band together to use the little water available in the most effective way possible.

"Water conservation measures during this winter will be absolutely of critical importance - we just simply can't let any water go to waste," he said.