POCKETS of the district are close to drought conditions, household tank supplies are running low and a total fire ban will be introduced next week as the dry spell continues.
Federated Farmers is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of rainfall and principal rural fire officer Rene Londeman says the fire risk is now extreme because of increasing drought levels.
Gisborne finished last month with a rainfall total of only 33.6 millimetres recorded at the airport, 20mm below the January average. Some parts of the district got more than that, but other areas got less.
The council introduced restrictions on garden watering using sprinklers earlier this week, as dam levels at Mangapoike continue to fall.
It says the levels are trending below a 50-year drought curve.
Gisborne/Wairoa Federated Farmers provincial president Peter Jex-Blake says most areas are “hanging in there”.
“The coastal belt from Gisborne up to Tolaga Bay is pretty good, but it’s getting very dry in places like Otoko, Rere and Ngatapa, where water for stock is becoming a bit of an issue.
“Farms north of Tolaga Bay are also feeling the pinch water-wise.”
Mr Jex-Blake says if the dry continues like this for another two or three weeks, with high temperatures, he imagines we will be starting to talk about a drought.
“There will be one or two pockets quite close to it now, from what I’ve heard.
“The whole district could do with a really good dousing of rain at the moment.”
Mr Jex-Blake says the dry has had a rapid impact on the store sheep market, with prices dropping at the Matawhero sale yesterday.
“That drop reflects a fair degree of nervousness among farmers.”
Stock sale commentator Barrie Gordon said the store lamb market in Gisborne had been one of the better ones around the North Island.
“But the spreading tentacles of drought across the North Island, and the body-blows of reducing schedules each week, is sucking the confidence out of buyers,” Mr Gordon said.
“Up to this point the Gisborne market had been supported by regional buyers who have had feed but some of those are now having to reassess things.”
AgFirst farm consultant Stephen Thomson said nowhere in the country had been declared drought-affected to this point.
“Though the Wairarapa, parts of Hawke’s Bay, Northland and the Bay of Plenty are getting close.”
The Gisborne district’s croppers have signalled the need for some rain as well.
Principal rural fire officer Mr Londeman said the increasing drought levels, combined with tall, dry vegetation, had resulted in an “extreme” level of fire risk.
“There is the potential for major damage to property and a possible risk to life,” he said.
Gisborne District Council, the Department of Conservation and Wairoa District Council will declare a prohibited fire season from 8am on Tuesday.
“It will remain in place until further notice,” said Mr Londeman.
No person is allowed to light any fire in the open once it comes into force.
“Substantial fines will be considered for anyone breaching this prohibition, which has been made in the interest of public safety,” said Mr Londeman.
“All residents are urged to adhere to it, and anyone seeing smoke should call 111 immediately.”
Households on water tanks are starting to get depleted and water carting companies are expecting an increase in demand over the next few days.
Judd Holdings spokesman Greg Judd says their household water carting is getting busier.
“We’ve definitely noticed an increase this week.”
Mr Judd says they are expecting the demand for household water to grow every day from now on.
“When the tank’s empty, it’s empty.”
He carted 11 loads one day this week.
“A lot of people have been holding out, hoping for rain,” Mr Judd says.
Muir and Baylis Transport operations manager Lance Stopford says they have been steady when it comes to water.
“It’s happening but it’s not outrageous.
“I would have thought it would have been a bit busier but it’s definitely going to pick up. After all, people are using water every day.”
Trevor Jukes from Jukes Transport says the water-carting side of his business is just ticking along, nothing dramatic.
“Our customers are pretty responsible people and they know how to husband their water.
“We’ve been here before. People read the weather forecasts, they know when it’s going to be tight water-wise, so they cut back their water use. Besides, a lot of people are carting their own now on small trailers, which I think is good, responsible, common sense.”
A forecast southerly change on Tuesday may bring some temporary relief from the dry, with showers predicted Tuesday, and rain on Wednesday next week.