Weather: 'Hit and miss' downpours bring little drought relief for farmers

Farmers have struggled with dry conditions.
Farmers have struggled with dry conditions. Photo credit: Getty

Despite heavy rain falling in much of the country overnight, it wasn't enough to ease the drought conditions faced by many farmers.

Philip Duncan, head forecaster of WeatherWatch said rainfall totals were fairly "miserable" all-up.

"It was much more patchy than I think people were hoping it would be, especially around places like Waikato and Northland and Auckland," Duncan told Newshub.

Farmers in Hawke's Bay and Northland have faced increasingly difficult conditions in recent months, as they struggle with bare paddocks and hungry stock.

Parts of Waikato are also in drought, while Auckland is experiencing a water shortage, with reserve levels running low.

Auckland averaged 15-20mm of rainfall over the last 24 hours, though some areas received more than 20mm, according to MetService. Northland received 15-25mm while the range of rainfall for Hawke's Bay was 5-15mm.

Duncan said more rain was on the way for the region, though it would continue to be hit and miss.

"The good news for Hawke's Bay is they've got probably a better chance today of getting some rain now that the low is in central areas.

"It's easing in the north, it's sort of drizzly light stuff, but the eastern side of the North Island has got a bit of a southern flow coming in for the next 24 hours, which should push more wet weather into that region."

Weather: 'Hit and miss' downpours bring little drought relief for farmers
Photo credit: WeatherWatch

The patchy rain pattern was very frustrating for those in desperate need of rain, Duncan said.

"Northland, Auckland and Waikato have all had similar weather where you get some spots that have had a good, decent downpour - they might get 30mm out of it - and then just a little further away, they've got two to five millimetres. It's frustrating that we're seeing it so patchy and it's been like that all this year, it's not just this one event. We've seen that pattern from every rain event in 2020 so far for the upper North Island."

He said there was "no significant relief" on its way in the coming weeks, though the odd downpour was possible in some parts over the weekend.

"There is still some silver lining. This weekend the airflow is supposed to turn more subtropical again for northern New Zealand. So the positive is at least it's warm, that is encouraging pasture growth and plants are enjoying that weather. 

"Rainfall-wise there is a chance of some downpours this weekend, which will be subtropical - so they'll be quite heavy. But again, it's hit and miss, so you'll either be lucky or you'll miss out. That's unfortunately the pattern we're in."

Duncan said around 200mm of rain was needed within one month  - around double the normal amount - to really make a difference to areas facing water shortages or drought.