Tue, Mar 5, 2024 4:00 PM

Rain not enough to reopen Wither Hills


William Woodworth

While rain across the region and cooler temperatures arrived over the last few days, Marlborough District Council has kept the Wither Hills Farm Park closed.

Council spokespeople said that while the rain has been welcomed, more consistent precipitation and lower temperatures are needed to have a sufficient effect on the environment.

MetService meteorologist John Law said that while the 31.6mm rain recorded on Monday was more than the recorded 24mm that Blenheim saw all of February, the amount of precipitation is still very short of the long-term February average of 48.3mm.

“The dry weather of February follows on from a dry January where the station recorded just 15mm all month - the Jan average is 49.1mm for comparison”, says John.

“The rain we saw yesterday came in the form of short but intense showers, these can often lead to quicker run off over the soils rather than a prolonged spell of lighter rain which is more readily absorbed into the soils”.

“One thing we can look at is the soil moisture deficit of the region, or much water is available for plants to use, that assumes a field capacity of 150mm. The deficit is the variation from this amount, with anything below about 130 considered severe”.

The soil moisture deficit compared to long term forecasts. Photo: Supplied – MetService/NIWA
The soil moisture deficit of 4 March 2022, 2023 and 2024. Photo: Supplied – MetService/NIWA

Most of Marlborough, Canterbury, and Otago sits under the severe deficit category, as does parts of Northland, Auckland and the Wairarapa.

And as Marlborough farmers ask the government to officially announce a drought, the Council says the fire danger of opening the Farm Park is still very high.

“We need consistent rain and low temperatures over a period of days, and no evapotranspiration”, said the Council on a Facebook post.

“Although we are heading into autumn, the next 10 days are forecast to be sunny and warm, with temperatures up to 27C.

“People are encouraged to use our other parks such as the Taylor River Reserve, Pollard Park and Victoria Domain in Picton”.

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