Wintry blast hoped to ease drought woes

Farmers in drought-stricken areas of Otago are rubbing their hands together as a three-day wintry blast heads our way with heavy rain, sleet and possibly a bit of snow.

A MetService spokesman said a front was forecast to become slow-moving over the South Island tomorrow, bringing strong northerly winds and rain to many parts of central and southern New Zealand.

"There is high confidence of warning amounts of rain for the Westland District south of Hokitika and the Otago and Canterbury headwaters.

"In addition, there is a possibility of severe gale northerlies in exposed parts of inland Otago and Canterbury during this time."

On Thursday a series of lows are expected to develop on the slow-moving front over the South Island.

Strong and relatively cold southerlies will develop over the southern half of the South Island, and there is likely to be warning amounts of rain affecting the Westland District south of Hokitika and the Otago and Canterbury headwaters.

"For Fiordland, Southland and Clutha, there is also a possibility that a rain warning will be needed", he said.

Early on Friday cool southerly winds are predicted to spread up the South Island, bringing snow which could affect higher roads and passes.

"The lows and frontal features are expected to move away to the east on Saturday, followed by a relatively settled southwest flow across New Zealand."

Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson said his 8700ha high-country sheep and beef station near Omakau was extremely dry, and three days of rain would be welcomed with open arms.

He said the dry had affected many farmers around the region, with some having to destock and buy in hay to feed remaining stock.

Many farmers around the region had been drilling winter crops over the weekend and a lot of fertiliser had been ordered in preparation for the anticipated rain, he said.

"We’re hoping we’re going to get some, but what usually happens is we get a lot less than what is forecast", Mr Paterson said.

"A lot of us have said, ‘We’ll believe it when we see it’."

Mr Paterson said if it was a short heavy burst of rain, it would cause farmers some problems because it would just run off — and may even cause some flooding.

"But if we could get three days of slow steady rain, that would get us back on track.

"It would be great.

"We’re all hanging out for the rain and we’ll count it when we see it", he said.

"There’s some fingers crossed around the region."

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi spokesman Andy Knackstedt urged motorists to plan ahead and check the latest conditions before driving on the West Coast today.

Significant heavy rain is forecast to hit the area from 9am today until Thursday evening.

"Early forecast rainfall totals in the region are significant, and may impact parts of the state highway network, including the possibility of surface flooding and debris on road surfaces", he said.