Still dry on Otago farms despite rain

Recent rain is unlikely to be enough to break Otago’s drought. Farmers are still feeling the pressure of the extreme January heat as low water stocks start to take their toll.

Federated Farmers Otago president Phill Hunt, of Wanaka, said farmers were still facing what some were describing as the worst dry spell in decades. The stock water supplies farmers relied on in a typical year were not available or sufficient this year, he said.

"Farmers are understandably concerned about the wellbeing of their stock and are de-stocking where needed."

Farmers needed to plan accordingly and could just wait and hope for more rain to fall, Mr Hunt said. Environmental responsibilities also needed to be considered when farmers were accessing additional stock water supplies, he said.

As a proactive measure, the Otago Regional Council will co-ordinate regular inter-agency meetings during the coming months.

ORC chief executive Sarah Gardener said the meetings would ensure  advice given to communities was appropriate and accurate.

"Our thoughts go out to the farming community, who are finding it stressful with stock water supplies drying up and stock suffering in the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Otago," she said.

ORC director of environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean said Otago’s regional water plan allowed stock in the region to have  access to water in rivers and lakes for drinking.

"So long as they don’t cause pugging and erosion of the bed and banks, stock are allowed to access waterways for drinking."

Farmers should view the permitted activity conditions in the water plan before doing so, Mr MacLean said.

The first inter-agency meeting will be held in Alexandra on February 13.

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