Weather: 'Sub-tropical downpours' coming for New Zealand - but it won't be enough for our driest regions

There will be relief for some of New Zealand's driest regions this week as rain tracks down the North Island - but forecasters warn it won't be nearly enough to reverse our drought conditions.

A low in the Tasman Sea made landfall on Sunday night, bringing much-needed rain to the upper North Island. It'll track down the country on Monday, before clearing to showers on Tuesday.

"Overall unsettled weather" is expected until the end of the month, NIWA says, created by waves of low pressure.

Many of New Zealand's regions experienced much-needed rainfall overnight. 

Taranaki was the highest rainfall achiever, with totals over the last 24 hours "reaching 220mm about the mountain", MetService says, while Wellington also received a significant 40-50mm of rainfall.

"Northland has had 25-35mm, Coromandel 20-40mm, and both Gisborne and the Hawke's Bay had more than 50mm about the hills but only trace amounts towards the coast. Nelson and Marlborough have had decent amounts, with a solid 30-40mm."

The wet conditions will be welcome news for some drought-affected regions - Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and north Canterbury in particular, Weather Watch says, as well as the Hunua and Waitakere Ranges.

However it's unlikely to "even make a dent in the over-year-long rainfall deficit these regions are now in", Weather Watch says, after a "fairly miserable" total of 10-20mm of rainfall was recorded in Auckland Central overnight.

"We'd need to see a couple of big, slow-moving rain events that bring at least double the monthly total to actually start balancing the books - and even then it would still leave you in a significant annual deficit," head forecaster Philip Duncan said.

Duncan said the rain overnight and in the next few days is likely to have helped, but wouldn't have drained deep enough to fill underground aquifers.

"Murky and drizzly conditions" are expected to persist over the next few days, with fog likely in the North Island and "a modest to-up of rain" anticipated on Wednesday, MetService says.

However the rest of the country will remain relatively dry, the forecaster warns, with just a few showers elsewhere for the rest of the week. 

The heaviest bouts of rain are likely to arrive this weekend and early next week, Weather Watch says, in the form of "sub-tropical downpours".

"All eyes will be on these potentially slow-moving downpours this weekend… downpours may double or triple totals for some on what fell over the past 24 hours," Duncan said.

"But the hit-and-miss nature of them makes it more frustrating for those trying to manage their way out of this foreseeable water shortage crisis in our largest city."

On the West Coast, which normally bears the brunt of New Zealand's extreme weather, it is anticipated to be sunny skies for the entire week.