Weather: Farmers in South Island in for more dry weather as fears of drought grow

NIWA predicts farmers in South Island are in more for dry weather over the summer.
NIWA predicts farmers in South Island are in more for dry weather over the summer. Photo credit: NIWA

Farmers in South Island are in for more dry weather as fears of drought grow.

While the North Island was battered by wild weather in the early weeks of January, the South Island escaped much of the wild weather and benefitted from long periods of fine - but dry - weather.

"La Niña tends to flip the New Zealand weather on its head, where the best weather tends to move down to the West Coast and Southland, where those places bask in the sunshine. In Greymouth, we had our very first time on record since 1947 that it exceeded 30C," NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll told NZ Herald last week. 

NIWA released its latest hotspot watch for New Zealand, describing soil moisture patterns across the country and showing where dry to extremely dry conditions are occurring or imminent.

A hotspot is declared if soils are "severely drier than normal". 

The New Zealand Drought Index (NZDI) map showed dry conditions are currently located in the Banks Peninsula, coastal and interior Otago, the lower West Coast, Fiordland, and Stewart Island while the eastern Banks Peninsula and a portion of interior Otago are experiencing very dry conditions. 

NIWA warns high pressure will bring dry weather for most of the South Island over the next week or so, with only a handful of daily, light showers occurring. 

NIWA added the current hotspot in the Banks Peninsula will likely strengthen and expand in the next week, while those in the lower South Island may see smaller changes. A new hotspot could also form near Nelson over the next week. 

But there could be some respite on the horizon with NIWA saying there is the possibility that slightly more organised rainfall may reach the West Coast by Friday.

They added weekly rainfall totals may reach 40-50mm in Fiordland and the lower West Coast, with 20-25mm possible in the lower South Island. But most other places may only see weekly totals of 15mm or less. 

But the outlook isn't good for South Island farmers, as persistently low rainfall and above-average temperatures could result in an escalation of the dryness in the lower and western parts of the South Island.

The North Island hasn't been as badly affected, with the driest soils, when compared to normal for this time of the year, found in southern Manawatū-Whanganui.

The wettest soils for this time of the year are found in eastern Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula, western Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, and Wairarapa.

NIWA said a small hotspot has formed in the past week in far southern Manawatū-Whanganui.