Expect more dry spells, minister says

By Mike Barrington

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INSPECTION TOUR: Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy (left) and Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parsons, of Tangowahine Valley, check conditions on John and Lurline Blackwell's farm in the Northland localised drought area.PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
INSPECTION TOUR: Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy (left) and Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parsons, of Tangowahine Valley, check conditions on John and Lurline Blackwell's farm in the Northland localised drought area.PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

Northlanders need to get used to climate change and the likelihood of more droughts, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said on a drought-dried Kaipara farm yesterday.

He visited John and Lurline Blackwell's sheep and beef farm on Mititai Rd south of Dargaville to meet locals, learn about their issues and offer sympathy to farmers struggling with drought problems.

Mr Guy, who farms dairy and beef cattle near Levin, said it was important for him to get out of Wellington and see the conditions which last month led to the west coast of Northland being declared a localised drought area.

He was last in Dargaville in February 2013 when Northland was declared a drought area after the driest summer in 70 years.

Mr Guy acknowledged how the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change update released Monday forecast more Northland droughts, floods and wildfires in future.

But he wouldn't be drawn on whether Northland farmers needed to examine the merits of Brahman cattle or growing bananas and pineapples in the hotter times ahead.

Northland had a diverse economy including horticulture, pastoral farming, forestry, tourism, 116,000ha of Maori land and other undeveloped resources, the minister said.

"This region is an important part of New Zealand with massive potential," he said.

Regarding climate change, the Government had spent $90.34 million since 2010 on Global Research Alliance projects and planned to spend $400 million on water storage, including $80 million in this year's budget.

The Blackwells have 320 bulls, 20 wagyu steers, 600 Coopworth ewes and 170 lambs on their 345ha farm, which got 36mm of rain a couple of weeks ago and is green compared with coastal farms left grassless after drought since October.

Mr Blackwell said he had sold stock as feed declined and he would sell some bulls if rain didn't come soon.

Before leaving to inspect Waikato and Bay of Plenty drought areas, Mr Guy also said he hoped the drought would break soon.

Rain could be near. The MetService 10-day forecast predicts showers for Dargaville on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

The Northland Rural Support Trust seeks grazing and supplementary feed for drought-hit farmers. To help, ring 0800 787 254.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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