HB in grip of worst ‘dry’ in 35 years
Hawke’s Bay is in the grip of one of its worst droughts in more than 35 years, following a battering from winds and dry weather.
The national president of the Vegetable and Produce Growers’ Association, Mr J. L. Clayton, said the drought was the worst since 1945-46 because of the consistent wind.
He said fruit crops were suffering from branch rub, and vegetables such as pumpkins, melons and beans were not standing up to the wind.
The wind was negating the effects of irrigating because it was taking the water away as fast as it could be spread.
Mr Clayton said it was too late for rain because crops had already reached maturity.
The wind was stopping the crops from growing any more by drying them out.
Wind breaks were only partially effective because the wind was coming in from all directions, Mr Clayton said.
The rainfall for December is well down on the average for the month in all areas of Hawke’s Bay.
ln Hastings, only 5.8mm of rain has fallen. compared with the average of 61mm. Napier has 1.5mm against the average of 64mm and in Central Hawke’s Bay the fall is down from 76mm to 14.8mm.
Hawke’s Bay forests are all under an extreme ﬁre risk because of the hot, dry, windy conditions.
Rangers say the fire hazard is the highest it has been for many years.
Any fire would be extremely difﬁcult to contain.
Grass seed harvesters have been working during the Christmas break gathering crops almost a fortnight earlier than usual.
But crops are being blown around farms and vital feed is lost to the wind.
Mr Dave Petersen, the chairman of the Federated Farmers’ Meat and Wool Section, said the situation was serious. and it was far too late for rain.
“The wind is the problem – burning the country off and creating havoc,“ he said.
Mr Petersen said stock water supplies were getting low, but farmers had not taken their stock off their farms yet.
Although substantial rain was needed, the grass might not come back because it was just about too late for any growth.
He said some clover grass could come away if there was heavy rain, but it was too late to expect a bonanza of grass feed.
Mr Petersen thinks Maraekakaho, Hastings, and the inland plains have been affected more than Central Hawke’s Bay.
He said if Hawke’s Bay got its usual new year sunshine then the country would be “really burnt off”.
Mr Petersen said although the drought was not as bad as the one of 1961-62, he could not recall a drier spring or summer.
Watties process crops will not be adversely affected by the weather, according to agricultural manager Mr Stuart Thomas.
Mr Thomas said although the weather was not doing things any good, crops were none the worse for the dry weather.
He said the lack of moisture had caused peas to ripen early but they had not lost any flavour or quality.
The situation at the aquifer has eased and town clerk Mr Bob Dick said that, with many people out of the town on holiday, water consumption had fallen.
The Hastings fire service attended five grass fires in the past three days and Napier firemen attended six.
A spokesman from the fire service said the fires might have been caused by people’s careless behaviour, such as throwing cigarette butts into the dry grass.
Hastings firemen assisted the Napier fire service at a grass and scrub fire at 3.25pm on Christmas Day at Ellis-Wallace Rd, Eskdale.
On Christmas Day, Hastings firemen also attended a fire in the wash house of a Frederick St home at 3.37 pm and a fire at a Lumsden Rd home at 6.51pm. One engine was sent to a car fire in Taihape Rd.
On Boxing Day there were two false alarms and at 5.48pm firemen pumped water out of a church in Davis St which had been flooded by a burst hose reel.
Firemen yesterday attended a grass fire in Diaz Drive, Flaxmere and a car accident on the corner of Omahu and Henderson Rds.