A momentous week for farmers and cricket fans – as two milestones that many have been waiting for finally arrived, one good and one bad.
First, Thursday saw Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy declaring official drought conditions on the east coast of the South Island.
The declaration, which will trigger Government support for farmers, covers parts of Otago, Canterbury and the Marlborough district.
“Most farmers have coped so far by destocking and using feed supplies, and most will not need extra support,” he said in a statement. “However it’s clear that conditions are only going to get tougher as the seasons change and we need to prepare now,” he said.
MPI approached WeatherWatch.co.nz two weeks ago and asked if we could provide detailed rain forecasts, region by region, week by week, for the areas most desperate for rain – Otago, Canterbury, Marlborough and Wairarapa.
WeatherWatch.co.nz believes in sharing as much data as possible – and we’ll endeavour to share as much info as we can with the public via our RainWatch news products and press releases.
With conditions in the South Island so dry, scrub fires which have raged over the past few weeks were looked into – and the costs of fighting them calculated.
As the blaze at Onamalutu was brought under control after a week long battle, Rural Fire Authority spokesperson John Foley says they have a preliminary cost estimate, but it doesnâ€™t take into account the actual damage to the forest and farmland.
He says that will be an insurance matter for the private property owners.
Meanwhile, in the Pines Beach area of North Canterbury, fire investigators believe the same person is responsible for a spate suspicious fires over the summer.
There’s been around eight suspicious fires in the last two months, two of which spread quickly in hot and windy conditions threatening property – and according to the rural fire service, bear similarities which point to arson.
There’s no real end in sight to the dry here, either – with a newly released climate outlook saying temperatures would most likely be in the “above normal” range for all regions of the country until April.
WeatherWatch forecaster Phillip Duncan said the tropics and Southern Ocean appeared to be “firing up … but we need a break in the highs coming from south of Australia before we can get a wet day”.
The dry conditions continued as sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean were borderline between neutral and weak El Nino conditions.
Across the ditch, drought conditions are spreading across the country there too, with New South Wales now feeling the heat.
Scorching temperatures have been traveling across inland South Australia and into western New South Wales and northern Victoria.
On Monday temperatures hit the mid forties over WA, peaking at 46.5 degrees at Roebourne Airport, 46.4 degrees at Marble Bar in the northwest and 44.8 degrees at Salmon Gums.
Some parts of NSW farmland have already been declared in need of help, but some landowners say they may miss out on assistance and subsidies because eligibility criteria does not reflect drought areas.
The Federal Government uses the Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall deficiency analyser to determine what areas receive assistance.
The analyser excludes farmers at Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett in the state’s north-west, with the NSW Farmers Association says the government should take more information into account to help farmers in trouble.
And finally, we ended the week with some unusual news – as reports of flashing lights and loud noises in the skies came in from many different parts of the country on Wednesday night.
While reports of the flash of light have been nationwide, reports about sonic booms came in from the Waikato/South Auckland area especially – and you can add yours here.
You can check out some incredible footage of the meteor, from YouTube user Josh Sherborne, here.
– Drew Chappell, WeatherWatch.co.nz
– Image: YouTube:Josh Sherborne