A Hawke's Bay drought which threatens to drag into next summer will "hopefully" make the public realise the need for greater security of water supply, according to the man heading the response.

Hawke's Bay Rural Advisory Group member and regional councillor Will Foley has reinforced that message as farmers from Napier south into southern Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa stare down the barrel of a possible sixth month in a row with below-average rainfall.

Foley was also Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay provincial president for five years from 2013, the era of the Ruataniwha Dam debate. It ended with the scrapping of a plan for a project costing well over $300 million amid concerns from some quarters the cost was too great.

Foley says the scale was "one of the impediments" and doesn't see the Ruataniwha proposal re-emerging any time soon, but the council last month formed a Water Security sub-committee, which he expects will look at smaller-scale options, initially.


"This drought certainly gives greater motivation," he said. "It's early days yet, but something's got to be done."

Rainfall for each of the last five months has been below 30-year averages in most of Hawke's Bay, hitting particularly hard in the more southern area. Forecasts offer almost no immediate relief with signs of a widespread desperate shortage of feed for winter stock.

"Time is running out," said Foley, a Central Hawke's Bay farmer who says that while there was some respite for some areas in the last week of March, there was little or none for the area west of State Highway 50.

It's not the only drought he's experienced but Foley says: "It's pretty depressing looking back at the last six months."

The extended dry is recorded in the Hawke's Bay Regional Council monthly rain report for March.

It separates the region into eight sub-regions. All of the regions from Tangoio south have been below average throughout, in every month since October.

The aridity reached a peak in February when rainfall south of Hastings, through to Central and Southern Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa was less than 12 per cent of February averages. That situation continued until as late as around the last weekend of March when rainfall of more than 100mm was recorded in some areas.

Cattle enjoy a drink in tinder-dry Maraekakaho. Photo Warren Buckland.
Cattle enjoy a drink in tinder-dry Maraekakaho. Photo Warren Buckland.

In Southern Hawke's Bay, at Mangaorapa, the rainfall in the last few days of March was about as much as had otherwise fallen since December.


MetService was forecasting some showers until midweek in Northern Hawke's Bay, and rain elsewhere in Hawke's Bay on Wednesday, but otherwise mainly fine weather over the next seven days.

In the twin cities of Napier and Hastings, maximum temperatures were expected to remain in the 19-22deg range, including fine weather from Good Friday to Sunday before a possible turn to showers on Easter Monday.