The Ministry of Education has stepped in to ensure Northland schools stay open throughout the region's ongoing drought.

Director of Education Tai Tokerau Hira Gage said drought conditions in Tai Tokerau were affecting schools and early learning services.

"The Ministry of Education is supporting schools and early learning services to stay open if their water supply runs out," she said.

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Nine 25,000-litre water tanks will be installed at schools on reticulated supplies in Kaikohe and Okaihau and filled to ensure the schools don't run out of water.

These include four schools, an early childhood centre and the teen parent unit at Northland College in Kaikohe which were a priority because of Kaikohe's level 4 restrictions which have been in place since February 6. Okaihau College and Okaihau Primary schools also received tanks.

Okaihau Primary principal Tim Couling said though Okaihau was on level 2 restrictions, the tank offered peace of mind as there was still no decent rain forecast in the near future.

Water from the tank would be used mainly for washing hands and the toilets, while bottled water had also been provided for drinking, he said.

The supplementary water supply includes installing a 25,000-litre tank, UV filter, pressure pump, and associated fittings and housing at each school. Local water carriers had been used to fill the emergency tanks as quickly as possible, Gage said.

"The tanks will remain as permanent fixtures at these schools, future proofing an alternative water supply for them if the region encounters drought conditions like this again," she said.

Large areas of pasture in Northland are in need of rainfall. Photo / John Stone
Large areas of pasture in Northland are in need of rainfall. Photo / John Stone

Bottled water is also being transported to Kaikohe schools and was provided by Frucor, an Australasian drinks company which sells spring water and energy drinks.

Another 12 schools in Kaitaia, Dargaville and Rawene are set to receive tanks, UV filters and pumps after an assessment by local plumbers.


Gage said a similar impact assessment of schools dependent on a reticulated supply would be completed in other affected areas in Northland.

Meanwhile, Northland mayors are praising acts of kindness from Fonterra tanker operators in the region, who have come to the aid of drought-affected communities by delivering loads of water as they arrive to pick up milk.

Tankers have delivered at least 90,000 litres of water a day to Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Dargaville and Rawene.

After months of low rainfall, rivers and streams throughout the region are running at critical lows.

"Farmers might not show it, but they're under real pressure as their crops, livestock and livelihoods are increasingly threatened by this drought, so these deliveries are a real morale boost," Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said.

"Many of the farms up here are in isolated areas, making it time-consuming and expensive to access water at the moment, so these deliveries are appreciated," Far North Mayor John Carter said.