1 Dec 2017

Driest November in more than 100 years for parts of Canterbury

2:02 pm on 1 December 2017

Some parts of Canterbury have had their driest November in more than 100 years.

Soil moisture levels have dropped considerably in a month.

Soil moisture levels have dropped considerably in a month. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The Christchurch airport weather station, which has been running since 1864, only recorded 1.4 millimetres of rain in November.

It was even drier in the town of Lincoln - it received only four tenths of a millimetre of rain.

Niwa meteorologist Chris Brandolino said at the moment the weather isn't causing drought-like conditions, but there is also no respite in sight, with no rainfall forecast in the area for the next 10 days.

He said the La Nina weather conditions will increase the fire risk, and people need to take extra care.

Summerfruit New Zealand's chairman, Tim Jones, said the hot and dry spring has resulted in a bumper crop for orchardists in Central Otago.

Tim Jones says crops are 10 to 14 days ahead of schedule and growers are rushing to get staff to pick and pack the fruit.

He said two apricot crops will be picked this year - one in January and one this month - which is very unusual.

Mr Jones predicts more than 4000 tonnes of export fruit will be picked this season, a record for the industry.

In Central Otago, Cromwell recorded a temperature of 33.3 degrees in November - a spring record for the town.

A hot, dry summer has the potential to dent milk supply.

AgriHQ is picking production to be flat this year, though its senior dairy analyst Susan Kilsby said drought may bolster flagging prices.

"If we have a prolonged period of dry and then that actually plays out into less product being available, then you would expect to see some upward swing, particularly in that whole milk powder price."

Given the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy, BNZ senior economist Doug Steel said dry weather could pack a nasty punch.

"All this will flow through to the wider economy through less spending. It may well hit the trade accounts, and put pressure on the currency."

The drought between spring 2007 and autumn 2008 was estimated to cost the economy $2.8 billion, and helped put New Zealand into recession ahead of the global financial crisis.

Mr Steel says it was worth keeping an eye on the skies.

"There is a bit riding on the weather as there always is with New Zealand's agribiz economy, and it's just getting a bit dry. So it's worthy of pointing out the risk."

Mr Steel warns if a severe drought happened the government might have to rethink its spending plans, while the Reserve Bank may leave interest rates on hold at record lows for longer.

On Thursday, Niwa published its outlook for summer, predicting hotter temperatures for the whole country and more rainfall for the top of the North Island.

It also warned depleted soil moisture levels over parts of the country will need to be closely watched.

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