Autumn grass growth 'terrific'

After one of their best autumns in decades, Taieri farmers are hoping recent rainfall does not continue into winter.

While the Taieri Plain missed the worst of recent rainstorms, about 62mm fell on the plain last month, boosted by 18.6mm last Monday and 8.2mm on Good Friday, exceeding the April average of 48mm.

The Taieri River rose to first flood alert status along its length during both high rainfall events but kept within its flood banks.

Taieri farmer Mike Lord said instead of causing problems as it did in North Otago, the rain gave a late boost to grass growth.

''It's still growing incredibly well for this time of year. But we don't really need any more.''

It topped up what he described as a ''phenomenally good season'' with exceptional grass growth on the Taieri.

But shorter days, less sun and cooler temperatures meant further rain could prove a problem.

Taieri farmer Colin Scurr said the ground was starting to get wet and slippery and cause lameness in some cows, but the grass growth had been ''terrific''.

''It's been one of our better autumns.''

The high flows in the Taieri had meant some extra work clearing up the ''mess on the berms'' and fences, he said.

Otago Regional Council engineering, natural hazards and science director Gavin Palmer said he and chairman Stephen Woodhead inspected the Taieri on Good Friday and were surprised to find most of the drainage network was clear and it was rain up country causing the river to rise.

The council's flood and drainage infrastructure, including the newly commissioned Waipori pump station, did its job without any problems, Mr Palmer said.

The council had proposed two new projects for the Lower Taieri Flood Protection Scheme in the coming year - forming a weighting blanket beside the Taieri River right flood bank at Otokia to reduce the likelihood of failure, and investigating the potential of seismic damage to the Waipori flood bank.

Observations from Christchurch after the first earthquake highlighted the need for better information on that flood bank, he said.

''We'll make an assessment if any work needs to be done after that.''


Top three April rainfall totals at Dunedin Airport (from 1963):

      180.8mm in April 1968

2       164.4mm in April 2006

3       96.6mm in April 1996

Source: Niwa



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