Drought: Farmers smell their grass rotting

By Laura Mills of The Greymouth Star

Some Grey Valley farmers could smell the grass rotting in their browned paddocks this morning after the rain that brought some relief to the South Island, passed up the country.

Most areas got a good downfall overnight with the earlier, gentle drizzle softening paddocks.

But with time running out to grow grass before winter, Federated Farmers West Coast says the rainfall was only a "drop in the bucket'', and this morning the skies above Rotomanu were blue again.

The rain was also not enough for the Grey District Council to lift its sprinkler ban in Greymouth.

Although the Atarau area did fairly well, across the Grey Valley at Ikamatua, West Coast drought committee chairman John Clayton's farm received only 7.5mm.

"It was unbelievably valuable,'' he said.

But he could smell the dead grass starting to rot in the paddocks by 9am today.

Seven or eight upper Grey Valley farmers irrigated their pasture, but Mr Clayton said others were now considering whether the outlay of up to $500,000 could be justified.

He was philosophical this morning.

"The upper Grey Valley is always the driest place on the Coast,'' but also copped less heavy rain.

At Rotomanu, Federated Farmers West Coast chairwoman Katie Milne welcomed 26mm of rain, but that had petered out by 9am.

She said the rain started nice and gently, and was quickly absorbed by the "concrete''-like paddocks, rather than just pooling.

Despite the overnight rain, she still wants the Government to grant the region official drought status.

"It was still a drop in a bucket,'' Miss Milne said.

Farmers were running out of time to grow grass, and Canterbury feed was being snapped up by other parched regions. Some West Coast farmers were spending $1000 a day on feeding out, and by Friday four dairy farms had dried off, with many other farmers considering it.

Even with the rain, the soil moisture deficit was a long way from where it should be, she said.

Grey District Council assets manager Mel Suthlerland said the rain had brought a noticeable reduction in demand for water from the Greymouth town supply.

However, it was not enough for the restrictions to be lifted.

Nelson Weather forecaster John Mathieson expects another dry week, at least until Sunday, with a fair bit of sunshine from Thursday.

By 6am today, he was reporting 25mm had fallen in Greymouth, and 24mm in Hokitika. Haast was wettest with 113mm, Kumara 37mm, Whataroa 41mm, Moana 22mm, Westport 31mm and Arthur's Pass 71mm.


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