Drought expected to affect aquifers for years, report on response suggests

Aquifers in Southland may take a decade to recover from this year’s drought, a meeting heard yesterday.

A Southland Civil Defence Emergency Management group meeting yesterday discussed the response to the drought which affected farms throughout the region in April.

A report by Emergency Management Southland manager Simon Mapp listed the positives and negatives of the drought co-ordination response, which was established last month to address issues the region was facing.

Invercargill deputy mayor Nobby Clark raised some issues which he believed were important for the group to consider.

"One of them was winter feed, and the cost of winter feed was the big one."

"[Also] the grass recovery for next spring will still be impacted, and I wonder if we’ve still got our eyes set on what that means for farmers."

Environment Southland acting chief executive Wilma Falconer said a sector group had been brought together by Environment Southland (ES) and there was already a programme of work around winter grazing.

"But we’ve extended that this year to actually include the conversations and actions in relation to support for reduced feed and what wintering means this year."

She suggested that in future part of the sector groups response could be included in the chairman’s report so the Emergency Management group could be made aware of any ongoing action.

"Certainly the [meteorological] people that spoke to us at the one of the meetings recently did say that aquifer impact was huge and it could take up to a decade to recover.

"Just keeping it to the fore for people that might think it’s all over and done with, especially the ministerial people, would be good," Cr Clark said.

Chairman Neville Cook agreed that Cr Clark raised a valid point and that Ms Falconer’s suggestion would add some assistance to it.

Southland Mayor Gary Tong suggested they should use the word "learnings" instead of "negatives."

The three negatives of the response were: they were unable to source a PIM [project information memorandum] from councils, there was difficulty in looking at transition to recovery due to its measurement in years, and Covid-19 restrictions affected the ability to hold physical meetings.

The report listed numerous positives, including the response of several agencies throughout Covid-19, and the strengthening of working relationships within the organisations involved.

By Ben Tomsett

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