Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Can we have some rain please?

Kaweka Drought, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

This year New Zealand has had one of the hottest and driest summers on record. Most of the country has had temperatures some 2-3 degrees Celsius above normal monthly averages since December, and record low rainfall.  As a result all of the agricultural lands in the North Island and on the west coast of the South Island have been declared drought areas.

Last weekend we traveled to Napier in the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island to attend a meeting and also visit a forest in the Kaweka Ranges, some 50 km inland from Napier. All of the areas we passed through on the 420 km drive from Auckland showed clear evidence of no rain, resulting in brown and dusty pastures.  Farmers are having to feed their animals either with feed normally reserved for winter, or from feed stocks purchased from outside suppliers.  Some suppliers have already run out of their reserve stocks.  Farmers are having to de-stock to ensure that animals don’t suffer, and to allow pastures to recover when the rain finally arrives.

Because New Zealand is primarily an agriculture-based economy, the impact of the drought has flow-on effects into the wider economy.  Already a predicted milk shortage has caused prices to rise on international dairy markets, and dairy farmers are receiving early payouts from the country’s biggest dairy products exporter to assist with drought relief.

The above image was taken from the road leading to the forest we visited in the Kaweka Ranges.  There had been as light rain shower in the day or so before our visit which allowed a small amount of green to show.  Mostly though, the pasture is brown, and what green there is is of little use to the animals.  The green field in the distance is irrigated by the local farmer who has a water right to draw from a nearby stream.

It’s now autumn here in this far flung corner of the South Pacific, a time when we normally expect to get regular rain.  So far it hasn’t arrived in any meaningful amounts.  Farmers are concerned about grass regeneration to see them through winter and into the next spring.

There is one consolation from all this heat and dryness though.  The Hawkes Bay region is one of New Zealand’s major wine producing areas.  The long hot summer has produced a high quality crop of grapes this year which the wine producers are very excited about.  It promises to be a great vintage.


6 responses

  1. Looking forward to the wine! We were there several years ago; SOOOO gorgeous. Played golf at Cape Kidnappers and had lunch at a wonderful winery at the bottom of the road to the course. Spent a month all over NZ – woudl LOVE to go back. So far away 😦

    April 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    • Hi Tina, Thanks for the comment. We are looking forward to the wine too! Our youngest son is a winemaker and spent last year’s vintage based in Napier. He says this year’s vintage looks to be very special – can’t wait. That part of New Zealand is lovely, glad you enjoyed it. Remember, for us your part of the world is equally far away 🙂 We are spending 3 weeks on a road trip to visit the US national parks of the South West in October – really looking forward to it. Chris G

      April 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      • We did the US national parks last summer. They are magnificent, you will love them. If you search my blog for Bryce, redwoods and Zion I posted lots of photos. Blogger taozero also did a bunch of posts on his Recent visits. There is also a wonderful free app for iPad from national geographic that we used a lot. Have a great time, I look forward to your posts’

        April 12, 2013 at 1:32 am

      • Thanks for the tips Tina. Will have a look and am sure there will be lots of useful information there.

        April 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

  2. twoscamps

    Wishing for rain for you. Sorry to hear of the drought, wine or no wine.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    • Wishing your wish comes true – and soon. The problem is that high pressure weather systems keep forming over the Tasman Sea then linger over large parts of NZ. Imaging if that happened in the USA!

      April 12, 2013 at 3:38 pm

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