Weather: Southern farmers fear it's the driest spring in decades

Southern farmers say they're going through the driest spring in decades.

NIWA backs this up, and says there are already signs of an early drought with some areas experiencing the driest October on record.

Banks Peninsula farmer Roger Beattie has witnessed a lot of weather patterns in his long career, but says this one is the worst.

"It's the driest spring at this time that I've ever seen," he tells Newshub.

It's been a mild and dry year in many parts of the South Island with an extremely dry autumn, a dry winter and so far a dry spring.

"Several locations are tracking toward their driest October on record," says NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll.

And it's widespread across much of the lower South Island.

"Very dry conditions across Canterbury and Otago, soil moisture levels anywhere from 10 to up to 50mm below normal for the time of year," Noll says.

Farmers are starting to worry. Many have lived through droughts before, but they hardly ever see signs of it this early.

"There'll be a lot of people having a lot of pain if it doesn't rain soon," Beattie says.

But NIWA says farmers should prepare for the more of the same.

"The outlook unfortunately speaks to continue dryness in the dryest areas of the South Island, maybe some rain here and there but we're going to need more to alleviate those dry soils," Beattie says.

It's all about the feed and if there's nothing to feed stock with the problems and costs start to rise.

It's all made worse by the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown when stock was harder to get rid of.

"So, more stock on, more mouths eating, less food," Beattie explains.

One other young farmer further out on Banks Peninsula described the conditions for this time of year as "off the Richter" and that it's the worse they've seen in over 12 years of farming.

NIWA also says areas in the north that had record droughts last summer, like Auckland, Northland and the Coromandel, are also drying up quickly.

And it's not just the farmers who should be worried.

"A shortage pushes the price up," Beattie says.

So it's the entire country that should be hoping for rain.