Never had to irrigate so late, farmer says

A born and raised Queenstown farmer says he has never seen the land so dry.

Chris Dagg, who runs a sheep and beef farm at the foot of Coronet Peak said he had never had to irrigate this late in the season.

It was likely that irrigation would be needed for at least another couple of weeks.

Mr Dagg fed the irrigation system off Mill Creek and said there were no issues with it so far.

“That’s one of the interesting things is Mill Creek has actually stayed … for whatever reason, even though we haven’t had the rain … Mill Creek is still running above its minimum flow rate.”

Otago Regional Council general manager, regulatory and communications, Richard Saunders said there were no regional council water restrictions in place for Queenstown Lakes or Central Otago at this stage.

“We continue to monitor river and lake levels; however, given the current dry conditions we encourage everyone to be conscious of their water use,” Mr Saunders said.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council last week released an advisory warning on water levels at some rivers and lakes including the Shotover River, Kawarau access lanes and the Clutha River mouth which were reportedly at extreme lows.

Last Thursday, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor classified the drought conditions in Southland and Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as “a medium-scale adverse event” and announced up to $100,000 in government funding to support farmers from now until October.

“The funding will go to the Southland and Otago Rural Support Trusts to help with both one on one support and community events, with extra technical advice also available from industry groups, including feed planning advice,” Mr O’Connor said.

Mr Dagg said from what he understood of the funds, there did not appear to be any funding to actually buy in feed.

He said had begun sending lambs to Canterbury and would soon be down to capital stock for which he said he had a surplus of feed, “so we should be OK”.

Mr Dagg said that he would begin supplementing feed earlier than usual this year.

“Things are dry here, there’s no doubt about it, but I’d say that it’s a bit tougher” [for Southlanders] because they’re more heavily stocked,” Mr Dagg said.

“There will be quite a cost, especially for the dairy guys. I know the price that’s been paid for baleage and that [is] amazing.”

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