120mm rain goes down a treat

By Peter de Graaf, Mike Barrington

The drought has broken with a bang after more than 120mm of rain was dumped in some parts of Northland.

However, the downpour didn't reach every corner of the parched region - and even the biggest dousings weren't enough to undo the effects of the driest summer in 60 years.

Eastern hills of the Whangarei District and inland areas of the Bay of Islands copped the brunt of the rain with the highest total, 139.5mm between noon on Monday and 7am yesterday, recorded at Puhipuhi.

The next wettest places in that time slot were Wiroa Rd west of Kerikeri (119mm), Glenbervie (97.5mm), Oromahoe (95.5mm), Kaikohe (83.6mm) and Ohaeawai (83.5mm).

Dairy farmer Alan Moscrip was right in the wet zone, recording 100ml in the rain gauge on his Waiotu Block Rd property south-east of Hukerenui.

He has been still milking 290 of his 400 cows once a day and saw the deluge as the first step in getting his drought-hit stock and pastures ''back to normal''.

The heaviest rain bypassed the very Far North and the west coast, with Cape Reinga recording 13.4mm, Kaitaia 28mm, Dargaville 12.4mm and Pouto Pt 3mm.

The worst effects were felt in Paihia where a fishing boat and a catamaran broke their moorings and were driven onto the shore by powerful easterly winds on Monday night.

The catamaran was pulled off the beach at Te Haumi about 11am yesterday while an attempt to free the fishing boat Anna-Marie is expected to get underway today.

The 12m commercial fishing boat, owned by DM Fishing,  broke its moorings at the height of the storm about 8pm. It ran aground at the far end of Kings Beach where it was something of a tourist attraction yeterday. The co-owner, who did not want to give his name yesterday, said damage appeared to be minimal. but that would be confirmed only at low tide when he was able to dig out and inspect the port side.

Conditions had been ''pretty ugly'' overnight but by 4am yesterday the boat was safe and secured to a tree.

''It's my first marine mishap iun 25 years. I'm not happy about it, but sh*t happens.''

If there was no major damage it would be towed free at high tide around noon today.

Northland Regional Council deputy harbourmaster Chidambaram Surendran said his initial concern was for the 400 litres of diesel on board, but damage to the hull did not appear serious and the skipper had managed to isolate the tanks overnight.

Concerns now were for the vessel itself. Freeing it would be ''quite a task'', he said.

Elsewhere, Paihia's Marsden Rd was littered in debris from Monday night's heavy swells; the Kaeo Fire Briagde was called out to clear branches from State Highway 10 about 10pm; and Kerikeri firefighters were called to Amuri Rd where bamboo was causing power lines to arc.

Both the Whangarei and Kaipara district councils reported no weather damage causing emergencies in their areas.

Northpower public affairs manager Steve MacMillan said two power outages took place during the overnight wind and rain.

 A tree which fell through a line at Maungatapere around 7.30pm on Monday left 576 customers without power for around two hours. The line was repaired by midnight.

 A cross-arm on a power pole in Wharekohe Rd at Poroti broke overnight and was fixed at 4am yesterday. Sixty-nine customers were without power for an hour.

The total fire ban imposed in the Kaipara and Whangarei districts on March 1 was lifted yesterday.

Kevin Ihaka, from Forest Protection Services, said the ban had been lifted as soon as possible to enable farmers to burn off and sow grass before the ground got too cold for the seed to germinate.

A total fire ban remains in force in the Far North but may be lifted later this week.

- Northern Advocate

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