A Facebook page started by a Maraekakaho farmer seems to be providing more relief for the drought-stricken masses of Hawke's Bay than the climate.

On Sunday, the region's first dark clouds in a month proved little more than a tease.

The Hawke's Bay Drought page was started by Poppy Renton on Friday and within 48 hours had almost 1200 likes, although in a province stored on omens – such as big cricket matches sometimes being seen as drought-breakers – not even Facebook could swing a miracle.

GO LOCAL! NZME regional titles launch support-local campaign
Go Local: Hastings council's $100k fund will keep community organisations afloat
Go Local: Wairoa's small businesses are key to town getting back on its feet
Go Local: Hastings' florist's first week back a blooming success


They need it. The farm's had 71 millimetres of rain this year. At the time of the 2013 drought there'd been 110mm from January 1 to May 1, and there was 79mm in the first four months of 1998, the other big dry to hit the farm.

Mum and dad Kate and Alastair have owned the property 25 years, and it's the biggest dry in that time.

Her dad grew up in the area and can't remember it having ever been as dry, and climate agency NIWA's monthly climate summary is expected to back the anecdotal evidence and confirm that with less than 90mm of rain since January 1, the Napier-Hastings area will have had its driest January-April period on record.

The impact on the business of the farm of 505ha (1250 acres) has already been felt.

"We sadly had to sell 20 of our in-calf breeding cattle and 400 in-lamb ewes just so we can keep the others alive," she said.

The property's now carrying 127 cows, 22 steers, 134 weaners, 77 R2 heifers, 600 ewes in lamb and 450 hoggets, but she said: "We are trying to move on more cattle but with Covid-19 shutting down the sales it is very hard."

Poppy Renton in greener times on the farm.
Poppy Renton in greener times on the farm.

Without the sales and other important gathering places such as meetings, community events, rugby games and a jaunt down to the pub after a day's hard work, all no-go territory during the pandemic crisis, there are widespread worries for farmers in the stress of the drought.

She decided to start the Facebook page so that farmers could communicate better, and be reassured they're in it together.

"I'm overwhelmed by the support for this page," she said. "It's a mix of people from all over the country."


Southern Hawke's Bay farmer Paul van Beers, one of the lucky ones of the summer with about 120mm of rain in the last week of March – more than for the rest of the period since late October, was also looking out for another hit, although conceding: "there is a bit of green around here."

By late afternoon there had been barely a trace of rain on the plains of Hawke's Bay, but falls of up to 20mm in the ranges, in the area of Ngahere in the Kaweka Range.

The biggest change had been the wind, which according to national forecasting agency MetService saw early Sunday gusts up to 80km/h at Hawke's Bay Airport and 65km/h on the Takapau Plains, and 90km/h at Cape Turnagain.