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03/15/2013

The worst drought in New Zealand in 30 years

A little over a year ago, New Zealand’s North Island was battling torrential rain and flash floods. Today, it is fighting a crippling drought.

A drought was declared in the entire North Island on Friday, for the first time in 30 years.

"It has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions," AFP quoted primary industries Minister Nathan Guy as saying. "We are keeping a close watch on all further regions," he said.

There has been little significant rainfall in the northern and eastern parts of the country since October.

Some rain is forecast this weekend in parts of North Island but Guy said farmers will need more than that.

Parts of the North Island are drier than they have been in 70 years, say reports out of New Zealand. Some scientists have said the unusual weather could be an indication of climate change.

The government has estimated that the drought has already cost the farming community about $820 million in lost exports and it could get worse if there is insufficient rain in the next few weeks.

New Zealand's last big drought was five years ago and it cost farmers billions of dollars.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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