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Record rainfall and soil moisture levels take toll on community and primary sector

Kathleen for media release

Too much of a good thing? Spring soil moisture and rainfall records are being smashed all over the region, wreaking havoc in our primary sector and causing disruption in our communities.

Regional Council Team Leader Marine Air and Land Science Dr Kathleen Kozyniak says that soil moisture levels are well above median levels for this time of year (mid-October), and the average increase across the region in the year’s rainfall to date is sitting at 40%.

“In many cases soil moisture levels are at field capacity or have reached saturation. At some locations, such as our site in Waipukurau, and our Cricklewood Climate site in northern Hawke’s Bay, soil moisture is at the highest level on record for the time of year.

“We’ve had copious rainfall across the region and are at record levels at many of the more than 40 sites we monitor. Rainfall for the year has varied between 760 mm on the plains to 3300 mm in the region’s northern ranges.

“Awanui, a site on the Heretaunga Plains, has already racked up a rainfall total that exceeds all previous annual totals recorded at the site, with two and a half months of the year to go. Awanui rainfall this year to date is 766 mm compared with an average of 470 mm.

“It is one of the highest increases above the long-term average for rainfall accumulation up until mid-October, approximately 63% higher than average for the time of year.  That’s similar for Wairoa sites, while Ongaonga is also nudging 60% higher,“ says Dr Kozyniak.

The biggest increase in millimetres is at Mt Manuoha in the far northwest ranges – it’s 959 mm above the site’s long-term average for rainfall accumulation up until mid-October, which represents a 40% increase (the average is 2415 mm). 

Out on the roads, the heavy rain has caused slips and subsidence, and is likely to have contributed to potholing, making travel dangerous. Earlier this month Waka Kotahi urged caution for travellers on State Highway 2 from Napier to Wairoa, SH5 from Napier to Taupō, and SH50 to Takapau.

Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay* local president Jim Galloway says while city folks might be tired of all the wet weather, spare a thought for farmers, where too much rain and saturated soil is bad news for livestock, the growing season, and harvests to come.

The rain, while welcome after two very dry years, is taking a toll on the primary sector.

“There’s been lots of mud, so cattle are pugging, which will affect grass regrowth. Conditions underfoot and lack of sunshine means that young stock don’t do as well.

 “We’ve lost the top off the lambing percentage, and dairy yields have been affected too. It’s been a slow spring, with soil temperatures down.

 “On the cropping side of things, it’s been a bit of a nightmare. Lots of growers haven’t been able to do the groundwork to get crops planted on time, and some are weeks behind. For some of those who have planted, there have been areas where plants drowned.

 “The biggest issue for processed crops, is that the planting happens in succession, to work in with factory capacities. There are potentially holes opening up in the harvest period because we haven’t been able to get the plantings done.”

 Mr Galloway says that there are good groundwater levels in the system, and that was a real positive. “Dams for stock water are full. We haven’t had that for three years, and hopefully the water levels will carry through to the summer.”

 In Central Hawke’s Bay and coastal areas like Ocean Beach, there had been a lot of land movement due to rain. “Farmers will have a lot of repair jobs to fences and tracks that will have to be done, and the roading network has taken a hammering,” says Mr Galloway.

 *The Hawke’s Bay province for Federated Farmers covers farmers located in Hastings District and Central Hawke’s Bay, and spans cropping, meat and wool, and dairy operations.





27 October 2022

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