Tukituki River reduced to dribble after low rainfall

By Lawrence Gullery

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The flow of the Tukituki River has reached an all-time record low after seven consecutive months of below-normal rainfall across the region.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council's State of Our Environment Report for March said the Tukituki, at Red Bridge near Tukituki Valley, recorded just 9 per cent of its normal average flow capacity for the month. The average flow across all rivers the council monitored in the region was just 24 per cent.

Groundwater levels in the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Basins were also at their lowest levels on record.

The region recorded 31 per cent of its average rainfall for the month with Tangoio the lowest, at 20 per cent, Ruahine on 21 per cent and Kaweka on 24 per cent. Southern Hawke's Bay recorded the most rainfall but it was still only 54 per cent of what it would normally expect for March.

Temperatures were above average and the highest figure for the month, 32.9C was recorded at Napier Airport and the lowest, 0.4C, at Taharua, northwest Hawke's Bay.

The drought's impact on Hawke's Bay's primary sector continued to prompt warnings from the Ministry of Primary Industries. The ministry's Hastings staff Gillian Mangin and Annette Carey said in the report the rain's brief appearance in March had inspired "a green tinge" but follow-up rain was desperately needed for pasture growth before winter.

"Winter feed crops have been planted and sit waiting for moisture. Fruit growers are also looking for rain to help prepare their trees for next season."

The shortage of pasture on many sheep and beef farms had caused sheep condition to "become variable".

"Without significant rain, and soon, some farmers are faced with culling cows and replacement ewe lambs. This combined with falling ewe weights will impact next season's production and is increasing concern among farmers."

Production at dairy farms will also be down for the season as farmers are using bought-in feed.

One group happy about last month's weather are wine makers, with most white-grape varieties harvested and the harvest of red varieties now under way.

"Hawke's Bay grape growers and wine makers are expecting this season's dry warm weather to result in an excellent vintage," they said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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