Farmer-owned cooperative Alliance Group is New Zealand’s biggest lamb processor. The company has warned suppliers that it may have to cut processing capacity at its Lorneville and Mataura factories because drought has prevented the business from pumping wastewater to the Makarewa River.
The business has secured short-term consent from local council Environment Southland to allow additional irrigation of treated wastewater on to land it owns in southernmost New Zealand.
In a message to farmers, Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said he recognised “the impact” extreme dry weather has had on farms, adding that Lorneville and Mataura had reduced water use.
Processing capacity constraint warning
Both plants have been running at full capacity, despite the water shortage, but this could change.
“If the situation worsens, and our processing capacity is constrained, we will support our farmers and shareholders first,” Surveyor said.
Danny Hailes, company secretary at Alliance Group, added: “Alliance draws water from the Oreti River and discharges treated wastewater to the Makarewa River as part of our processing operations, in line with our resource consents.
“We are conscious of our environmental obligations and will continue to monitor the situation. We will update farmers and our staff in the event there are any developments.”
Extremely dry weather across New Zealand, which is now in its summer, has affected many farmers based on the South Island. Parts of the lower North Island, like the West Coast and Otago, have experienced the dry summer too.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries has classified the situation as a medium-scale adverse drought.
The classification made today (30 January) triggers NZ$130,000 (US$95,000) for the local Rural Support Trusts and industry groups to coordinate recovery support.
“Anticipated rain that could have provided respite just hasn’t fallen in the right areas to mitigate the effects of the early hot dry summer,” said minister for agriculture, biosecurity, food safety and rural communities Damien O’Connor.
“Some useful rain is predicted for this week, but the drought has already taken its toll on farms and will take time to recover from. While rain now would allow pasture to grow, this can take a month to translate into feed for animals, and many [farmers] are now well behind in preparing for winter.”