New Zealand North Island hit by worst drought in 30 years

  • Published
A drying out water reservoir in Kiwitahi, New Zealand. Photo: February 2013Image source, AP
Image caption,
The drought is beginning to take its toll on New Zealand's economy

A drought has been declared on the entire North Island of New Zealand - in what the government describes as the worst dry spell in 30 years.

Farmers are especially hard hit, with losses in agriculture expected to shave about 1% off economic growth.

The capital Wellington is said to have just 18 days of water left, and parts of the South Island could soon be hit.

But there is likely to be some relief over the weekend when the first decent rainfall in two months is forecast.

'Perfect' conditions

The scale of the drought can be seen from space: satellite images show how parts of New Zealand have turned from lush green to parched brown.

Farmers, who traditionally drive the nation's economy, estimate that the drought has already cost them about NZ$1bn (£544m; $820m) in lost earnings.

They are now being offered financial assistance by the government to deal with the crisis.

"What we are telling our farmers is forget about this season, start concentrating on next season," Derek Spratt, the chairman of New Zealand's Rural Support Trust, told the BBC.

Some scientists say the unusually dry weather could be a harbinger of climate change.

At the same time, many city residents are enjoying sun soaked days as they go eating lunch outdoors or spend evening on the beach.

And winemakers describe the current conditions as perfect.