Preparing for El Niño
El Niño is a climate pattern that can cause weather to be more extreme in areas of the Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand. MPI and other agencies help farmers and growers affected by El Niño events. Find out what you can do to prepare, and where to get advice and information.
What is El Niño?
El Niño is the end of a natural cycle known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation. During this cycle, changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation warm the central and eastern tropical Pacific. Warming of the ocean affects climate across the Pacific.
El Niño occurs every 3 to 7 years on average. It usually peaks during the late Southern Hemisphere spring or early summer and then weakens the following year.
Impact on New Zealand
Because each El Niño is different, it's hard to predict its impact on our climate. The effects of El Niño vary depending on the time of year and part of the country.
- Stronger or more frequent westerly winds
- Dryer conditions in the east
- More rain in the west.
- More southerly winds
- Cooler temperatures.
Spring and autumn
- Stronger or more frequent south westerlies
- Mix of summer and winter effects.
Preparing for El Niño
El Niño increases the chances of more frequent and extreme adverse weather events. If you are a farmer or grower, you need to be prepared.
MPI produced a fact sheet to help farmers prepare for the El Niño event in 2015 and 2016.
Download the Preparing for El Niño fact sheet [PDF, 538 KB]
What you can do to prepare
- Have a plan in place with set dates for decisions depending on climate conditions. Discuss your plan with trusted advisers and update it over time.
- Make decisions early and take action.
- Pastoral farmers – feed is key.
- Conserve feed surplus and assess the potential for summer feed crops.
- Use a feed budget to meet your planned stock numbers, and act on deficits early.
- Prioritise stock for destocking early and feed the remainder as well as possible.
- Use irrigation water efficiently and plan for water restrictions.
- Have a realistic budget, and monitor it.
- Monitor seasonal forecasts and extreme weather and fire warnings.
- If you’re new to farming or to El Niño, talk to experts who have been through an El Niño event before:
- your neighbours
- bank advisor
- professional advisers
- Make time for yourself, your staff, and your family. Look out for your neighbours. Sometimes a few hours away from the business can make a huge difference.
- Look after your animals and regularly monitor their condition.
- Ask for help if you need it.
Where to go for advice and information
Agencies are ready to help you with support and advice. Start with your local Rural Support Trust.
- Phone 0800 78 72 54 (0800 RURAL HELP)
- Check the Rural Support Trusts website
Click on any of the following topics to reveal more information.
Early planning is key
Make early decisions on feed budgets and source alternative stockfeed supplies well before you may need them. Have a plan with trigger points for other solutions, such as destocking.
Find out more
Help is available
Firstly, contact your Rural Support Trust. Other agencies are also set up to support farmers, growers and families through difficult times.
Find out more
- Rural Support Trusts website
- Managing your financial and mental wellbeing [PDF, 1.2 MB]
- Government funding boost for rural mental health [PDF, 307 KB]
- Government assistance for climatic events and natural disasters impacting on-farm [PDF, 361 KB]
- Farmstrong website
- Health and wellbeing – Dairy Women's Network website
- Rural Women New Zealand website
- Extreme weather tax relief – Inland Revenue website
- Rural assistance payments – Work and Income website
Information on the NIWA website
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