Central Hawke's Bay's Helen Powley checks the rain gauge every day at her and husband Matthew Powley's property near State Highway 50 on Smedley Rd.

Her record shows they've had 10mm of rain so far this month.

This time last year they'd had 130mm.

It's dry, but making matters worse is that for the first time since they have farmed the 160ha property, their 200ft well dried up last April.


In addition, a pipe they had installed to take water from the Mangaonuku Stream as of last weekend is no longer supplementing stock water because the access point on the stream has also dried up.

"We have lived here all our lives, it was rehab farm from 1945 - my in-laws lived here and they never had these troubles. We have lived through 11 droughts in 34 years, but this tops the lot.

"We have feed and shade for the animals, but no water," Mrs Powley said.

They have had to get rid of stock, but to keep water to the sheep and cattle that remain they are spending $600 a week buying water, delivered by tanker, as well as containers of water for themselves.

The rain water that had been captured from the roof in tanks by the house has also gone.

"We are being so careful - when we had that rain water we had a few showers and did a bit of washing, but now we have been going to a friend's house for showers.

"We have a small 16ft swimming pool, and we're using that water for the toilet - when that's gone I don't know what we'll do."

The pair said they looked into putting another well down deeper, but the cost was too prohibitive and they still might not strike water.


"We are beside ourselves - farmers are resilient, we can cope with drought if we have water - we can't just walk away," said Mrs Powley.

Adding to her frustration, she said, was the sight of irrigators still working.

She questioned why there could not be a temporary ban to allow water levels to recoup.

"We'd like to see people stop taking from the aquifer - there's not enough water left."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council group manager external relations Liz Lambert said the situation in the Ruataniwha catchment could be a result of people starting to use their full allocation of water allowed under their resource consents.

"Anecdotally we have heard that while people are waiting for the dam they are installing additional wells and using up all of their allocation.

"In the past people might have a certain water allocation and use half of it - maybe they are using more of it or using it up - they are finding it's drier generally, they've not had rainfall they had in the past."

Those allocation limits were studied during the Board of Inquiry process around Plan Change 6, and were such that no more water is now allowed to be allocated from the Ruataniwha aquifer, she said.

The last consent to take that groundwater was issued six years ago.

As long as irrigators were operating within the volume of water specified in their consent the activity could continue.