Irrigation ban as big dry hits farms hard

By Laurel Stowell

Irrigation from the Rangitikei River must cease, and 48,000 stock were trucked out of Taihape last week as the dry spell bites, Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei meat and fibre chairman Fraser Gordon says.

His Taihape farm has had only 20mm of rain in the past six weeks.

When Federated Farmers members met in Palmerston North on Thursday, they considered asking for a state of drought to be declared in the region. Northland was declared officially in drought on Wednesday.

But the Manawatu and Rangitikei farmers knew Waikato and Hawke's Bay were in a worse way than their West Coast region.

"Hawke's Bay is definitely worse than we are, but we're catching them up fast," Mr Gordon said.

Hawke's Bay farmers were used to drought, and destocked earlier in summer.

"It's more of a shock for farmers this side."

The Manawatu/Rangitikei group is preparing an application for drought relief, and Mr Gordon said it might be made this week.

The Thursday meeting heard from Horizons Regional Council's spokesman on major climatic events. He said river levels in the region were very low. The Oroua was the worst, at a 15-year low while the Rangitikei was at an eight-year low.

Landowners could still take water for stock from it, but the huge irrigators that have been watering crops and dairy pasture in the lower Rangitikei for the past month will have to be turned off.

Taihape farmers are running out of grass for their stock. Most of the animals being trucked out of town are going to the South Island, where there is more feed and better prices at meatworks.

Mr Gordon said it was lucky New Zealand meatworks had more capacity than they usually needed, because farmers were getting their surplus stock killed with no hold-ups. They passed a vote of thanks to the meat companies.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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