A Northland farming leader is calling on the government to declare a drought in bone-dry Northland, which is reeling from searing temperatures, if it doesn't rain for another week.
Northland Federated Farmers president John Blackwell said the region was getting "pretty close" to an adverse event being declared as a severe lack of rain, low water supplies and animal feed, and the extremely hot days should have primary sector leaders worried.
"Last week's been extremely hot and with no rain, coupled with another week of rising temperatures and evaporation, farmers are very concerned about how much stock they've got left."
It's understood Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor will be asked to declare an adverse weather event as early as this week.
When asked if the government should declare an adverse weather event if it didn't rain for another week, Blackwell replied in the affirmative.
However, he said other stakeholders such as Rural Support Trust, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Fonterra and horticulturists should all support such a declaration.
The Northland Primary Sector Adverse Events Group is meeting this Friday but Blackwell said a declaration could be made prior to the meeting.
O'Connor said he was still monitoring the situation closely.
To date, he said primary sector representatives have been reporting that farmers have generally been prepared for the dry conditions.
O'Connor said he would receive advice back from the group on whether it thought the situation was now beyond the rural community's ability to cope and assistance was needed for farming and growing businesses.
Farmers sending cattle to abattoirs earlier than usual
Water restrictions possible depending on rain and use
"I'm getting regular advice and updates from officials at MPI. When preparing their advice MPI take into account views from a range of stakeholders including the regional council, primary sector stakeholders, the local Rural Support Trusts, government agencies and Niwa," he said.
From a weather and climate perspective, Niwa said the threshold for drought in Northland had already been met but the government takes other factors into account.
A drought is classified as either localised, medium-scale, or large-scale based on the MPI's assessment of options available for farmers to prepare for the event, the likelihood and scale of the physical impact, and the capacity of the community to cope economically and socially.
O'Connor said while Northland was in a meteorological drought, that in itself didn't mean an adverse event would be declared.
He said there was a very objective set of criteria for declaring an adverse event, including if the situation became greater than the community's ability to cope.
According to MetService, no rain is forecast for Northland at least until early this week although southerlies will help bring temperatures down by about 5C.
All areas in Northland has had less than 15mm of rain in January and so far this month.
The Far North District Council on Wednesday last week imposed Level 4 water restrictions in Kaikohe— the highest that can be applied— which means all outdoor water use is banned.
Residential water use in Kaikohe is restricted to drinking, cooking and washing.
The council has taken delivery of three 30,000-litre water tanks to provide for Kaikohe residents and businesses if water pressure is reduced or shut down.
A day later, the same restrictions were applied in Kaitaia after water levels in catchments fell rapidly.
Level 4 restrictions already apply in Dargaville and Baylys Beach and level 3 restrictions— banning hoses, sprinklers, water blasting and filling swimming pools— are in place in Paihia-Waitangi-Opua, Opononi-Omapere and Kawakawa-Moerewa.
Dargaville Water Carriers are currently booked for the next two weeks and those needing supplies are being asked to text their name and address to be added to the waiting list.
Hockey Northland has asked its members to conserve water at its facilities.
"We will endeavour to keep to two turfs for all practices and rallies, unless it is necessary to utilise all three. We will be looking at the practice schedules to date to check on turfs and times," they stated on social media.
The turfs will be watered once a night only.
Water saving tips:
· Flushing less often
· Only washing clothes on a full load
· Turning off the tap while brushing teeth or washing hands
· Fixing leaking taps, toilets and other fittings.