Hawke's Bay under water


Hawke's Bay is heading for one of its wettest rain periods on record with a second round of heavy falls expected today and again this weekend.

The sun is not expected to make an appearance until early next week.

Rivers will continue to rise and surface flooding is likely to be common, prompting a MetService severe weather warning, which points out a break isn't likely until Monday or Tuesday.

National and Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said some farmers in the region had recorded more than their annual average rainfall by the end of July.

"It's been an extremely wet season in Hawke's Bay and most farmers are miles ahead in terms of their annual average rainfall.

"They'd probably be happy if it stopped raining right through to 2013 at this stage," he said.

"Where I farm in Te Pohue, we've kept rainfall records for 60 years and this is the wettest year we've held records for."

He said the best comparison was the rain brought down by Cyclone Bola in 1988.

"But I would say this rain is not as bad for the guys on the coast (Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa), who were hit by heavy rain in 2011."

Mr Wills said reports of slips in rural areas in the past week had reinforced his drive on tree planting to combat erosion.

"We talk a lot about building resilience into your farming business and that's about planting trees, poplar and willows, which have the best roots binding the hills together."

For the second consecutive year Hawke's Bay had sold out of poles, with demand exceeding supply to farmers taking a proactive approach to tackling erosion.

Rainfall reports from Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay supported suggestions of a record tally.

Raukawa resident Folker Liebnow said there had been 202mm of rainfall in her rural neighbourhood for July, with 34mls falling on Tuesday.

Norsewood resident Lyn McConchie's records showed there had been 165mm of rainfall in July and 250mm for the year to date.

"In my records it has been the wettest July we have had in more than 20 years," she said.

"I've never known a July as wet as this.

"To have 260mm of rain, well, it isn't just wet, it's saturation.

"At the moment, there's a broad swathe of very shallow water lying on properties around the district.

"Normally in upper Norsewood the water drains away quickly but the water table is high, at 10 or 12 feet, I think."

In just two nights Ms McConchie has recorded 70mm in her rain gauge and said the 260mm of rain in July was well above the area's norm of 90 to 120mm.

"Even in a a wet July I've only ever recorded 160mm," she said.

Alison Greenwood, of Valley Rd, Raukawa, said she had recorded 23mm in the past three days and 164mm for July, compared with 81mm for July last year.

"There's been surface flooding and even the sloping hills are slushy."

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler recorded 130mm of rain at Tikokino, 100mm at Argyll Cres and the same figure at Range Rd, all during last week.

Mr Butler, who farms at Tikokino, said the rain could impact on Central Hawke's Bay farmers who were preparing for the lambing season, due to start next week.

He said he could not remember the last time the district endured such a long period of poor weather.

"It's as wet as I've ever known it. The cattle are up to their pizzles in mud," Mr Butler said.

The constant rain hasn't been making life any easier for Central Hawke's Bay farmer Graeme Laugesen, who is among those preparing to start their lambing season next week.

But he knows that in the long run the constant wet weather showering the region is going to set up his 505ha station, Waitukai, near Patangata, for the coming summer.

"It's raining but it's still warm," he said.

"It would be a different story if we had cold weather thrown in, as well, but I think our survival rate is going to be pretty good when we start to lamb.

"Things are on track. The grass is growing because the warm weather we had lifted growth and so lambing is looking pretty good, if we can just get this weather out of the way," he said.

Mr Laugesen was flat out on his beef and sheep station yesterday morning, moving cattle on to ground more suitable for feeding and looking to buy new tyres for his four-wheel drive bike because the existing set weren't cutting it in the challenging muddy terrain.

"We've leased this property for about 10 years and I reckon this is the wettest we've seen it during that time," Mr Laugesen said.

The most challenging areas on the station were on the high-country hills, above his River Rd home, which had proved difficult to access with the rain softening the ground.

To the east, stock on the flats next to the Tukituki River had been moved to higher ground as river levels continued to rise.

"Everyone is in the same situation out here."

At Weber in the Dannevirke district, Heidi Lewis had just one word to describe the continuous wet weather: "hideous". And husband Steve muttered about having to build an ark.

The couple are sheep and cattle farmers and rather than talking about the rainfall in inches, to them it's "vast quantities."

"I look at the rain gauge and walk away in disgust," Mr Lewis said.

"Parts of our property are slipping and other areas remind me of a paddy field.

"This continuous rain is very hard on our stock, so we're feeding molasses to our sheep and baleage to our cattle."

With so much rain falling in the district - 54mm overnight on Tuesday - even getting to his stock could be a problem, Mr Lewis said.

"We're lucky if we can cross our streams.

"They become raging torrents and come up so high and flow very quickly, we have to wait until they fall before driving through to get to the stock," he said.

With lambing and calving not due to start until the end of August, Mr Lewis said he was just thankful he had plenty of supplementary feed.

"Thank God we haven't any lambs and calves now, with all this rain and temperatures down around five degrees.

"We're lucky to have a whole heap of baleage, it's been our survival. If we didn't have it we'd be in trouble."

The wet weather had also caused problems on Tararua roads, said Ray Cannon, the Tararua District Council's engineering manager.

Slips and trees had come down over roads, especially on the coast, he said.

There had been dropouts on Birch Rd East and North, Castlehill, Glenora, Rimu, Totara and SugarLoaf roads in the Akitio district, but Mr Cannon said Infracon staff had been outing trying to keep roads open where possible.

"There's also a lot of low-lying water around Woodville and if motorists strike any dropouts, slips, or flooding, we'd appreciate it if they could let us know," he said.

Additional reporting: Christine McKay, Siobhan Leathley, Jessi Mee and Harry Pearl.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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