'Million-dollar rain' helps Hawke's Bay farms

By Roger Moroney of Hawke's Bay Today -
Bruce Wills. Photo / File
Bruce Wills. Photo / File

"Million-dollar rain" was how Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills described yesterday's downpours which swept the region - easing drought and fire-risk fears which had been building to what he said were "concerning" levels.

"It has been very welcome rain and there will be a lot of farmers around the place with big smiles on their faces."

The rain belt was generated by a low pressure system which built up over the northeast of the North Island and which sparked a heavy rain warning for Northern Hawke's Bay and Poverty Bay to be issued by MetService about 9am yesterday.

The heaviest falls were between Gisborne and Mohaka.

Nicholas Carr, who manages Mangatoto Station near Morere, 40km northeast of Wairoa, reckoned about 150mm of rain had fallen in the 24 hours up until 3pm yesterday.

"We got some heavy falls and haven't been able to get out on some of the tracks, but it's very welcome rain," he said.

"Some farmers were starting to get a bit panicky up this way because it was getting very, very dry - this will ease that panic for sure."

He said while it was always more desirable to have steady rain over a few days rather than a heavy dose in just one day, he and his farming colleagues would take it gladly.

"At this time of the year any rain is good rain."

Mr Wills said the falls had put to rest for now the threat of serious drought across the Bay, although he predicted that within a few days it would be "back to singlet weather".

Farmers in Central Hawke's Bay, which like parts of Northern Hawke's Bay had begun drying out to the point of creating the need to begin de-stocking early, reported getting up to 25mm.

"That is very useful rain at this time of the year."

He said spring and early summer was the time when farms had the most young livestock on them.

"And this is the time of the year we expect maximum growth to feed that young stock."

The rain, while forecast to begin easing this morning would create much-needed growth, Mr Wills said.

Wairoa District Council emergency management officer Tim Allan said about 100mm of rain had been recorded across the region from late Monday through to mid- afternoon yesterday.

Apart from isolated areas of surface flooding there had been "no dramas" and the most positive result of the rain, and something echoed by emergency management teams across the region, was the dent it put in the rising fire risk.

"This is bang on time because the risk was getting right up there - it was extreme in some areas."

Mr Allan said stream and rivers levels had risen but in the wake of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council opening the bar at the mouth of the Wairoa River water flows had cleared more quickly.

There had been no reports of major slips on SH5 or SH2 north.

As well as solid rain the Bay had also been confronted by temperatures more in tune with winter than a fortnight out from the start of summer.

Although the expected high for Napier and Hastings was expected to hit 14C yesterday, at noon it was just 10.7C in Napier and 10.8C in Hastings.

At the height of winter, back on July 15, it was 15C.

Hawke's Bay forecaster James Morrison, who operates Weather Station which advises the viticultural industry, said the most recent previous coolest November day was in 2006 when the temperature stalled at 12.6C. "So this may have been the coldest for quite some years but it is moving pretty quickly and things will be warming up from Friday." He said the rains were the first "decent" falls since August, and effectively ended a big dry which saw just 7mm fall across the region in October.

"It was a very good 24-hour soak."

Weather conditions were in a neutral phase at present and he doubted there would be a solid El Nino system arriving now.

"Too late for that now, I think."

Summer was set to follow a relatively normal pattern.

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