Rain brings some relief for farmers

Heavy rain has given some farmers confidence they have now beaten the devastating record drought.

But others are still desperate for more rain before cold weather hits.

Rain burst above many farms across New Zealand yesterday and this morning has offered some respite for the parched land.

It's the driest summer in 70 years, with the entire North Island being declared a drought zone, and even the famously wet South Island's West Coast being hit.

And while the long, hot summer continues into April, the small amounts of recent rain suggest the worst may be over.

But for others, they are still struggling with dry conditions and are even having to sell some of their stock that they just can't feed.

Hope could be on the horizon, with expert forecasters WeatherWatch predicting a 30 per cent chance of a sub-tropical low hitting northern New Zealand some time next week.

"Today, the models are still indicating this is possible, but being so far out - and with the weather so fickle for many - we don't want to make any big calls just yet," said head analyst Philip Duncan.

MetService duty forecaster Liz Walsh said the worst of the weather was over for Easter Monday.

There could some afternoon showers for Auckland, Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, and Gisborne Ranges, while it would be fine and sunny for the rest of the country, she said.

However, a thunderstorm warning was possible for Westland and Fiordland tomorrow, with winds potentially gusting up to 100kmh.

Heavy rain fell on parts of Westland and Fiordland last night, which was welcomed by the local farmers.

Rotomanu dairy farmer Katie Milne, a national board member of Federated Farmers, described the rain as "very satisfying".

The rain, coupled with other "wee tiny bits" over the last 10 days, had been enough to see the area start to return to its green roots.

"This latest rain reinforces things and means those new shoots won't die," she said.

"We're looking very positive on the Coast now."

It was the driest conditions she had ever experienced, and even locals who could remember further back than the Niwa records which date to the 1940s, could not remember it being this dry.

She said they still needed more rain while the weather remained warm and the grass could still grow before winter hit.

And while she believed the worst was over for her region, colleagues in other parts of the country were still waiting for relief.

"It's still a little bit patchy,' she said.

"Some areas have had the spring put back in their step and the grass is bolting, but some guys are looking to offload stock because they haven't turned the corner enough yet.

"It's a mixed bag, depending on where you are in the country."

Finance Minister Bill English said the latest Treasury advice estimated the drought could cost the economy as much as $2 billion.

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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