Hawke's Bay is on the verge of precautions to combat a possible drought looming because of an autumn and early-winter dry period.
By the end of the weekend there had been just 21mm of rain at Napier and Hastings weather stations this month, less than half that for the first nine days of June last year.
Rainfall in the previous few weeks had been barely a quarter of the May average, while for the year to date Napier's rainfall this year was just 59 per cent of the average, Hastings rainfall was just 67 per cent of average, on the Takapau Plains in Central Hawke's Bay it was 61.5 per cent of average and at Mahia it was 84.6 per cent of average.
Today there appeared to be little relief in the pipeline for farmers, with the online MetService forecast for Hawke's Bay, from Mahia to the Takapau Plains, being for cloudy weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, some showers on Thursday-Saturday and a return to fine weather for the start of next week.
Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay provincial president Jim Galloway, now holiday in Tonga, said farmers are starting to look at "Plan B or Plan C" precautions.
Some are already starting to run low on stock feed which had to be used earlier in the season than it would normally have been used, but the good December and January conditions meant that most farmers did have good supply.
"Certainly there is a bit more supplementary feed from the exceptional growth in December and January," he said. "But we are feeding-out earlier, some of the lamb finishers might not be bringing much on, and some that have irrigation are doing it early as a precaution. They will be looking at what options they've got."
Havelock North-based water carrier Bourke Contractors, which supplies fresh water to fill tanks as far afield as Porangahau in the south, the Summit on the Napier-Taupo highway to the west and about halfway up the Napier-Wairoa road, says there's unusual demand for so late in the year.
"We've been struggling to keep up and we've had to have two trucks on," he said. "The 20mm last week eased it a bit, but it won't take long....it'll be back. There some farmers that are just hanging on."
The arid conditions, which have left hillsides looking unusually brown for the time of year — just over a week before the shortest day and winter solstice — have also had an impact on the racing industry.
Hawke's Bay Racing Inc pulled scrapped a steeplechase from the programme because the harder track conditions when it last raced in Hastings on May 22 and is now contemplating steps to make sure the historic Hawke's Bay Steeplechase and Hawke's Bay Hurdles go ahead as planned at the Hawke's Bay Hunt's annual race day on June 29.
According to HBR general manager Andrew Castles the situation is manageable, and he said: "The 18mm we had last week was outstanding. This time next week we'll probably make the decision whether to irrigate the outside of the course, but we normally wouldn't have to think about it."
The continuing better climate has been good for winter sport, with Hawke's Bay club rugby development manager Gary Macdonald saying: "We don't get a lot of wet days for club rugby, which is why the Magpies don't like playing in the rain. They're not used it."
"There were a couple of squalls came through on Saturday, but I haven't had to bring out the heavy (wet-weather) gear at all this year."