While drought is looming for Hawke's Bay and a restricted fire season is in place across Tararua, Eketahuna farmers are simply trying to keep their heads above water as it rains and rains, with dairy production falling dramatically.

"The continual wet weather has been demoralising, for farmers and contractors," Tararua District mayor and Eketahuna dairy farmer Tracey Collis said. "The ground is saturated and every time it rains we get surface flooding."

Mrs Collis' husband Mike said the area was "as wet as a shag".

And while there is grass, it has little "guts", Eketahuna dairy farmers say.


There was 450mm of rain in Eketahuna in December and the deluge has continued this month with more than 100mm on one day and more than 90mm on another. But while Dannevirke basked in sunshine on Tuesday, drizzle continued in the south.

"It's been phenomenal," Mrs Collis said.

"It's been a very hard season, farmers are working very long hours and every job takes twice as long and seems doubly difficult in the wet.

"Lakes have appeared in paddocks and never drain away and in the foothills of the ranges there are new slips caused by the rain."

With the continual rain, bullrushes have replaced weeds alongside some rural roads and Mrs Collis said garden and lawn-mowing contractors had also been hit hard by the big wet.

"Pre-Christmas we had very stressed contractors, with one telling me he had 51 lawns which needed mowing."

Continual rain has caused this Eketahuna sheep farmer's paddock to slip away.
Continual rain has caused this Eketahuna sheep farmer's paddock to slip away.

The only thing helping dairy farmers stay afloat had been the lift in Fonterra's payout.

"Thank goodness for that, but even sheep and beef farmers in our district are feeling it as the rain continues," Mrs Collis said.

"It's important for people to realise everyone is going through the same thing. The big thing is farmers need to talk to each other."

Milk production figures given to the Dannevirke News by Jamie Smith, Fonterra's area manager for the Tararua, reflect the huge impact continual rain is having on the district's dairy farmers.

This season, as at January 27, milk production in the south Tararua was down between 20 and 25 per cent on two years ago, he said.

"Speaking to my farmers at the southern end of the Tararua district, most of them are between 10-15 per cent down in production on last season and they were almost 10 per cent down the previous season due to lower cow numbers, so production is extremely well down on where it was two years ago, between 20 to 25 per cent."

In comparison, dairy production across New Zealand is down 4.97 per cent, down 7.48 per cent in Wairarapa, down 13.10 per cent in Hawke's Bay and down 10.46 per cent in the Central Districts, which includes Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatu, Whanganui and Horowhenua.

To help beleaguered farmers in southern Tararua, Mr Smith has arranged four Fonterra farmer barbecues at Hukanui, Mangamaire, Ballance and Mangatainoka.

Slipping on paddocks on Pukehoi Rd in Eketahuna caused by the unrelenting rain.
Slipping on paddocks on Pukehoi Rd in Eketahuna caused by the unrelenting rain.

"The idea is for a night barbecue and a few drinks to enable local farmers to get together and just chat to each other, given the tough weather conditions they have experienced this season," Mr Smith said.

In contrast, rainfall records for Norsewood for January show lower than normal falls, with just 74mm.

"That's lower than usual, since in most Januarys we have somewhere between 100mm and 200mm, except for 2015 when just 50mm of rain fell in January," weather-watcher Lyn McConchie said.

"This year's January results come on the back of two previous months which were also well down on average.

"And there was an additional factor, too - almost constant gales. In my opinion the gales we have had almost completely negate the amount of rain."

Not liking the look of the weather ahead, Ms McConchie has sold the last of her surplus sheep.

"Frankly, I'm preparing for a genuine drought this year," she said.

"It's possible I'm wrong, but the portents suggest I shouldn't take the gamble - and I'm not."