Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Dry and desperate as drought hits

People living on lifestyle blocks running out of water and facing long wait for tanks to be refilled.

Lawns are cracking, water tanks are emptying and houses are moving on their foundations, as Auckland undergoes an unusually long, hot, dry period.

Lifestyle block owners are being hit hardest, forced to buy in water supplies after their toilet cisterns run dry. Some businesses are telling customers they must wait a fortnight before their tanks can be filled.

Keren Bullock, owner of A1 Water Kaukapakapa, said the long dry period had left many people on lifestyle blocks desperate.

"People are getting water from their parents or neighbours. They're quite stressed. Things are not great, having to find the money every two weeks for water," she said of some worrying about their ability to cook or wash.

It was another hot, dry day in Auckland yesterday, with a high of 26C. The next few days are forecast to bring similar highs and rain is not expected until Monday.

Getting water to animals was a priority, Ms Bullock said. Swimming pool levels had dropped because of evaporation, which caused cleaning and filtration systems to shut down.

A1, which delivers to the Kaukapakapa, Kumeu, Helensville, South Head areas, was experiencing unusually high demand.

"We've never ever been booked like this. At the moment, nobody can get water until Sunday and a lot of companies are two weeks behind. It's not as bad as the 2011 drought, but we're heading there unless we get significant rain," she said.

Average orders for 10,000 litres cost up to $175 but many customers did not fill their entire 25,000-litre tanks, hoping it would rain so they would not need the tanker back a fortnight later.

Geotechnical engineer Gareth Williams, of Engineering Design Consultants, said the weather was causing some houses to move on their foundations and he knew of problems on the North Shore, in Grey Lynn and Westmere.

Worst affected were brick veneer-clad houses, usually built in the 1960s, because the soil was drying out causing movement which exhibited itself as cracking in the mortar.

Corners of buildings could crack and new foundations or piles had to be laid.

The Herald reported yesterday that Niwa data showed Auckland had just 6mm out of a normal 61mm of rain so far this month, Kaitaia had just 4mm out of a normal 89mm, Tauranga 4mm compared with 78mm and Hamilton 11mm instead of 82mm.

The MetService said a large, slow-moving high was covering New Zealand and directing a humid easterly flow over the north of the North Island.

Rain is forecast next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before hot and dry conditions return on Thursday and Friday.

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- NZ Herald

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