Monday, 28 March 2022 14:25

No rain, but a perfect storm

Written by  Staff Reporters
Southland Rural Support Trust chair Cathie Cotter. Southland Rural Support Trust chair Cathie Cotter.

Southland farmers are reeling from the combined impacts of Covid-19 and a long dry period, say the local Rural Support Trust.

Southland Rural Support Trust (SRST) and industry groups have been meeting since February 2022 to monitor the effects of both Covid-19 and the continued lack of rainfall.

Environment Southland has reported that some rivers are very low for the time of the year, and many groundwater monitoring sites are at their lowest on record for this time of year.

Decreasing river levels mean many water consents have or are close to reaching their cut off limits.

Grass and supplementary feed growth has also been severely impacted.

“It’s shaping up to be the perfect storm,” says Cathie Cotter, chair of the SRST.

“The ability for farmers to manage the current dry conditions is being seriously hampered by staff shortages created by community COVID-19 in both the rural servicing industry and the processing companies. Pasture growth and pasture covers are well below average levels and many farmers are already digging into their winter feed supplies to keep stock fed while we wait for the rain,” she says.

The growing incidence of Covid-19 in the community means processing companies are impacted both by staffing shortages, and the possibility of water consents reaching cut-off. Reduced throughput at meat works has meant some farmers are forced to hold stock on farm with reducing options to feed them.

NIWA’s climate outlook for March-May is for rainfall to be near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance). Temperatures are likely to be above average (65% chance). Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be near normal (45% chance). 

“However, we are running out of growing time before winter,” says Cotter.

The SRST is holding a series of free Coffee on Us events in a selection of the worst affected dry areas from Wyndham to Western Southland and Te Anau.

Southland farmers struggling to cope with the current challenges are encouraged to contact the SRST on 0800 787 254 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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