Northland drought firmly 'locked in'

Authorities in Northland say rain forecast for the weekend is welcome but won't go far enough to break the region's drought.

A burst of heavy rain is expected followed by a return to dry conditions and cold southerlies next week.

Northland is one of a number of regions suffering badly from a lack of rain for many months.

The drought had caused significant feed shortages for farmers, exacerbated by a reduction in processing capacity as a result of the new protocols that processing companies must follow in order to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Northland has been tipped into one of the most severe droughts on record and there's no quick fix for the serious situation the region is in, according to the Northland Regional Council.

"A dry winter in 2018 preceded by a dry year in 2019 were the perfect set-up conditions for the drought currently gripping the region," said the council's natural resources monitoring manager Jason Donaghy.

"Storms and downpours are critical for the region this coming winter because this rain will determine how Northland's rivers and aquifer copes with the following summer."

The council was urging people to think ahead to next summer and give thought to storage options such as tanks and dams to protect against possible acute water shortages again next year.

Council monitoring and hydrology team reports indicated that rain through March and April had helped the region slightly, with the drought intensity dropping from extremely dry, to severely dry, along the east coast and in the Far North.

Rainfall for this year is currently tracking 40 to 47 percent below normal levels across all the main centres in Northland. 

"Generally, Whangārei would have about 365mm of rain "in the bank" by May each year. 

"The total to date is well below this at only 140mm," said Donaghy.

By October 2020, rainfall totals would need to be at least 750mm along the west coast of the region and about 900-1000mm along the east coast and in the Far North.

Rivers are particularly low in Bream Bay, Whangārei and some of the Far North catchments with most rivers from 80 percent to 90 percent below normal flows throughout March 2020.

A Hawke's Bay rural support group this week urged farmers to seek help as severe drought-conditions worsen in the region and concern grows about their mental health.

The Hawke's Bay Rural Advisory Group said the southern half of the region was about to enter its seventh month of below normal rainfall, and there was no sign of the drought breaking.