'Grave concerns' for Hawke's Bay farmers with no end in sight to drought

Hawke's Bay farmers are in "uncharted territory" as drought conditions in the region worsen.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council on Thursday said it had "grave concerns" for farmers, particularly in the central part of the region, as dry conditions continue to be unrelenting. 

"Our region is used to managing dry conditions, yet this drought is particularly prolonged and severe," says James Palmer, the council's chief executive officer.

The dry conditions have been caused in large part by a westerly flow that has dominated in the area over the past few months and is expected to continue for a while yet.

"The council’s monitoring systems show monthly rainfall well below normal in the Ruahine Ranges, Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Plains and southern Hawke’s Bay for seven consecutive months. Soil moisture is at its lowest recorded levels for this time of the year at Bridge Pa, Ongaonga and Crownthorpe."

Many farmers have already used their supplementary feed reserves, meaning they must face tough decisions about how to manage their stock. 

In order to help those struggling in the region, farmers in Wairarapa launched an initiative earlier this month to send feed north and help relieve some of the pressure.

The Rapa Feed Run - set up by Sophie and Daniel Hansen - was inspired by a similar campaign during the recent Australian bushfires.

Wairarapa had also been in a tough situation recently, but substantial rainfall in March took some of the pressure off.

Palmer says the council is working with the Civil Defence Rural Advisory Group to help those most impacted by the drought in Hawke's Bay.

"To those in the rural community severely impacted by drought – you have our support and concern. Reach out for help, be kind to yourself, and surround yourself with a strong team. We are here to help and together we can get through this."

Recent months have seen extremely dry conditions across both the North and South Islands, with many saying the drought in Hawke's Bay is the worst in living memory.

Earlier this month the Government announced a further $500,000 relief package to support farmers across the country facing drought conditions. 

That brought the total amount of drought funding relief announced this year to $17 million.