John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Heaven-sent rain eases Bay drought worries

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Wet Weather at the Mount. These Aucklanders decided to take a dip at the Mount Main Beach despite the rain. Photo/Andrew Warner.
Wet Weather at the Mount. These Aucklanders decided to take a dip at the Mount Main Beach despite the rain. Photo/Andrew Warner.

Constant rain that drenched the Western Bay of Plenty for two days has been welcomed as "dollars from heaven" by thousands of farmers and orchardists.

The almost unprecedented wet start to the New Year caused a few dramas for motorists, saturated concert-goers and confined campers to their tents and caravans.

Almost 75 per cent of January's average rainfall fell over Tauranga between midday on New Year's Day and 2pm yesterday, totalling 50.2mm.

Read more: Big dry predicted for summer

It resulted in the cancellation of two flights into and out of Tauranga Airport yesterday morning, with the arrival of the 12.45pm flight holding the Black Caps cricketers delayed for more than an hour.

But unlike the frustration felt by holiday makers, race-goers and airline passengers, the region's farmers thanked their lucky stars that the weather gods had smiled on them after a dry start to the summer.

"It could not have come at a better time, it's dollars from heaven," Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president Rick Powdrell said.

Federated Farmers chairman Steve Bailey said it was a magnificent start to the year and would give farmers a bit of a buffer for the rest of the month if things started to dry out again.

Holiday makers swimming in the sea on Saturday despite the rain.
Holiday makers swimming in the sea on Saturday despite the rain.


It reversed a lot of the damage to pastures from the dry spell leading up to Christmas.

"Without a doubt, there are smiles on the faces of farmers. Every conversation started with 'bloody good weather isn't it'," he said.

Te Puke kiwifruit grower and Kiwifruit Vine Health chairman Peter Ombler said the rain had been much needed. The little rain that fell in December was being sucked out of the ground by drying westerly winds almost as soon as it went in. Without the rain, orchardists might have been hitting a bit of a wall by the end of January, he said.

MetService duty forecaster Karl Loots said receiving almost the month's average by January 3 was "pretty impressive".

The rain began at midday on January 1 and did not stop until between 1pm and 2pm yesterday.

He said the rain fell steadily, with the heaviest spell between 7pm and 8pm on Saturday when 4mm came down. The 50.2mm of rain in two days compared with December's total rainfall of 22.2mm, of which a quarter was on Christmas Day.

Mr Loots said there was a chance of morning showers today but the weather looked good for the next three days.

Without a doubt, there are smiles on the faces of farmers. Every conversation started with 'bloody good weather isn't it'
Federated Farmers' Steve Bailey

While campers battened down the hatches to keep dry, it was a different story at the Bay Dreams music festival at Baypark Stadium where 5000 people braved the weather for nine hours on Saturday to hear some of the best hip hop and New Zealand roots music. Gumboots were the order of the day.

Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson said it was a great event even though it was challenging for event managers.

The infield was cut up but in a couple of weeks it would be dug up for the jetsprints.

High winds in the Kaimai Range on Saturday morning prompted police to take the rare action of closing SH29 to large high-sided large vehicles until the winds died down a few hours later.

The police and Fire Service's weather-related callouts were restricted to a couple of motor accidents.

The most serious crash was at the Papamoa end of Kairua Rd yesterday morning when a car hit a power pole, bringing down lines. In another crash, a car skidded off Turret Rd and nosedived down a bank. The driver was not injured.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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