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Help at hand . . . Pupils from Cheviot Area School, along with Deputy Principal Scott Bermingham respond to the call to help save stricken eels stuck in mud in St Anne's Lagoon. PHOTO: SCOTT BERNINGHAM

 

By AMANDA BOWES

For the fourth year in a row, parts of North Canterbury have taken on a familiar bleached look as the big dry continues and its impact being felt in a variety of ways.

Cheviot’s St Anne’s Lagoon has suffered from an accumulated lack of rain – to the point where it has completely dried up.

On February 3, a call for help went out to the community to save the eels which were perishing in the sticky mud.

Cheviot Area School’s Deputy Principal, Scott Bermingham, responded and with 11 students joined in the race to save the eels and take them to the Waiau River. Over 2000 eels were successfully relocated.

Hurunui District Councillor, Vince Daly, says the lagoon last dried up in the 1970s and late 1960s.

Farmers are also being affected and Mr Daly says those facing a fourth year of drought are starting to run out of ideas.

“People are beginning to hit the wall, stock dams have gone dry.” There was a feeling of ‘what now’?

The hills along the east coast from Waipara to Kaikoura and back towards Culverden have dried off considerably in the past few weeks.

The toxic algal bloom has reared its head in places popular for swimming across Canterbury and Environment Canterbury has made the swimming hole behind the Balmoral Camping Ground and the Hurunui River by SH7 a no go zone. The black algae can be fatal to children and dogs with only one teaspoon of ingested material enough to kill a child.

Further down the road in the Hawarden-Waikari area, the dry also continues.

Rainfall in spring and a lack of the usual Nor-West wind meant good growth and more supplementary feed made than the year before, but after weeks of hot Nor-Westers the ground is suffering again.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury vice-president Dan Hodgen says the area is still very dry but the support from MPI is still there.

Dry winters are now the problem, he says, as ground water isn’t being re-charged.

“It’s getting drier, but people are dealing with it really well. February is normally dry for the area but I’ve just about given up guessing what will happen in the future.”

The dry has been of benefit to grain growers with both dry land and irrigated properties getting good yields and good weather for heading.