Rain too late to blunt Manawatū drought’s damage

Some areas benefited from short, heavy falls from isolated thunder storms on Tuesday, but MetService forecaster April Clark said Thursday could bring showers and gales, and Friday is expected to bring more widespread rain.
* Drought declared in Taranaki, parts of Wellington and Manawatū/Whanganui * Irrigators going flat out after more than a month without rain * Manawatū River water at 30-year low * In Manawatū, a drought is spreading like a patchwork quilt * Drought on the horizon for farms if no rain soon * From water, water everywhere to a possible drought A level 4 restriction was declared for Levin on New Year’s Day, which means the town supply cannot be used for most outdoor purposes, including for swimming pools, private or commercial gardens or washing down boats.
Less-strict water restrictions also remain in Shannon, Tokomaru, Foxton and Foxton Beach, and in Palmerston North, Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe, Longburn, Linton, Pahiatua, Woodville, Norsewood, Akitio, Eketāhuna and Dannevirke.
Many areas of Manawatū have been bone dry, with next to no rain in November and only one day of meaningful rainfall in December.
Palmerston North and Horowhenua districts have a total fire ban in place, and there are restrictions or bans in parts of the Manawatu, Rangitīkei and Tararua districts.
Hew Dalrymple, who farms east of Bulls in Rangitīkei, said while the rain was good, it was already too late to blunt the impact on farmers.
"It’s not a particularly pretty picture … and it’s not going to be good for the regional economy."
The drought would have ongoing effects, including a poor harvest of cattle feed for later in the year.
Silage and baleage were only about 30 per cent of the previous year’s levels, and farmers were already using winter stocks.
The drought left farmers facing some hard choices, and it was wise to plan as if the recent rain wouldn’t be enough to significantly change things, he said.

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