Dry weather in coastal areas puts strain on farmers

    Wyndham farmer Mat McRae at Mokoreta River as water levels remain low due to the lack of rain. Photo: Supplied

    SOME Southland farmers are being heavily affected by dry weather, and it may get worse.

    Coastal Southland is in the grips of an extreme dry period, and rivers around the region are at levels usually experienced about every two years, except coastal rivers, which are much lower.

    If the dry patch continues, Environment Southland (ES) could issue a water shortage direction, which would put further restrictions on water takes and discharge consents throughout the region.

    Several aquifers are also experiencing their lowest levels for this time of year.

    ES integration manager Nick Perham said coastal areas are recording the driest summer since the regional council’s records began in 1970, with only 60% of the normal rainfall recorded from December until the end of February.

    “The short-range forecast of some rain this week is unlikely to be enough to affect river flows. Some reprieve could come this weekend though, with the extended forecast indicating some reasonable rain of around 25mm around the coast and 15mm inland,” he said.

    Tuatapere farmer Quinton Erskine said they had been affected since Christmas as they could not get stock to the meatworks and needed more feed to go into the winter.

    ‘‘Grass growth has been non-existent since about Christmas so it makes you scratch your head and wonder, ‘what are your stock going to eat?’

    ‘‘We haven’t really been able to get on top of it since then, this means we’ve ended up having to store all our lambs because we could not fatten them.’’

    A creek which ran through their property had dried up.

    ‘‘[The creek] has stopped running again — this is an issue as we are used to generally getting 100mm of rain.’’

    His sister and farmer Anita Erskine said there were a lot of farmers ‘‘in the same boat’’.

    ‘‘It’s been pretty tough but I guess all we can do is keep talking to our neighbours and keep talking to other people because we are all experiencing dry weather and trying to keep our stock happy and healthy.’’

    Wyndham farmer Dean Rabbidge said there was added pressure on farmers not only due to the weather, but other factors such as Covid-19 and the border restrictions.

    ‘‘There’s a lot of pressure on everyone which has been compiled to make the perfect storm, especially with meat company reps and stock agent livestock reps who are facilitating a lot of movement of livestock, they are probably in a tough position. So people need to be considerate because they are doing the best they can, just like everybody else.’’

    ES has said it would continue to work closely with the Southland Rural Support Trust, local councils and industry groups in the region.

    “At this stage, we’re hoping for rain and are asking all Southlanders to follow their local council’s advice on what they can do to conserve water,” Mr Perham said.