Farmers selling stock as Waikato set to become second drought area

The big dry has parts of the country firmly in its grip.

The president of Federated Farmers in Waikato fears the drought could have an even greater economic impact than those in 2007 and 2008 - estimated to have cost the country $2.8 billion.

The Government has declared a drought in Northland and is expected to do so in Waikato.

James Houghton said conditions in Waikato were worse than spring 2007 and autumn 2008, which the Government estimated cost the primary sector $1.9 billion on-farm and $900 million off-farm.


"It looks like over the next two weeks there's very little of the North Island that won't be declared a drought."

Many farmers were being forced to sell stock, often to South Island buyers, and meatworks were overloaded, Houghton said.

On un-reticulated Waiheke Island, worst affected residents are bathing in the sea or at public facilities instead of showering at home.

Waiheke Local Board member Paul Walden has been delivering water for basic sanitation from the back of his ute, cutting four-week delivery times.

The blue skies have also brought an increased risk of skin cancer. MoleMap analysed Niwa data and found ultraviolet radiation has increased by 17 per cent. Melanoma sufferer Courtney Buchanan, 30, yesterday pleaded with people to protect themselves. The mum-of-two from Arkles Bay, Auckland, has had nine melanomas removed since being diagnosed a year ago.

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said the only hope of rain in the next fortnight was a subtropical low possibly arriving around March 11.

When the scorching summer weather finally yields, a mild autumn is predicted, though temperatures are likely to be near average or above average in the North Island, according to the latest outlook from Niwa.

Climate scientist Jim Salinger said conditions were following the same pattern as four years ago.

"It's all over the North Island, apart from Horowhenua to Wellington, which is exactly as it was in 2007-08."

Salinger is in Australia, which is experiencing its hottest summer on record. He said the North Island could expect hot, dry summers like this to become the norm because of climate change.

A visiting World Bank leader yesterday said climate change was a big concern for the region.

Axel van Trotsenberg - in Wellington to discuss aid to the Pacific - said climate change, natural disasters and "the tyranny of distance" were important issues, especially for poor island states.

Ministry for Primary Industries North Island resource policy manager Stuart Anderson said the ministry was monitoring the situation.

Should drought be declared in Waikato, it would apply from Taupo to the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Dairy farmer Philip Bell said he had never experienced a summer as dry as this in the 50 years he'd been on his Clevedon property.

"Next week I'll be pregnancy testing all my cows and all the empty ones will have to go.

"We're in a pretty bad situation."