13 Jan 2021

Far North in desperate need of rain

10:37 am on 13 January 2021

Water restrictions are likely for more parts of the Far North if there is not significant rainfall soon, and the forecast is not good.

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Photo: 123rf.com

People in Kaitaia are not allowed to use hoses, sprinklers or irrigation devices, with restrictions also in force in Kawakawa-Moerewa and Paihia.

It comes after NIWA declared that 2020 was the seventh warmest year on record with multiple regions receiving less rain than in any previous year.

The Far North had 65 consecutive days without rain last summer and is still yet to fully recover, with drought conditions again gripping the region.

Harsh restrictions had to be imposed on Kaitaia this week due to the main water supply, the Awanui River, dropping to worrying levels.

Restrictions also apply to Kawakawa-Moerewa and Paihia and district councillor Kelly Stratford warned they might have to be rolled out further afield.

"The drought that we had last year, Kaitaia hasn't recovered from, and although the expectation from NIWA and the hydrologists at Northland Regional Council were expecting us to have a weaker summer and for us to be okay, that's not been the case."

Given much of the region was plunged under water in July's floods, Stratford can understand why people might be surprised to learn that it's swung to the other extreme in such a short period.

"We are working on things in the future, [but] probably not for another two years will it actually be in place because it takes a long time for infrastructure to be designed, signed off, funded and agreed on. But we've got to catch the rain."

NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll said it could be a while yet before the region gets enough rain to end the drought.

"The current dry spell is likely to linger through to the end of the working week but as we go through the weekend and into early next week, it does look like much of the country will get a dose of rainfall, even those northern areas that could use it," Noll said.

"However, it will probably be short lived, just lasting a few days. There's an indication that we could see after the rainfall of early next week, another drier pattern emerge."

Throughout the country, there is generally more moisture in the soil than this time last year. Although some exceptions exist, notably the Far North, parts of Wairarapa and the Marlborough region.

NIWA released its annual climate summary for last year yesterday which shows the nation-wide average temperature was 13.24 degrees, 0.63 degrees above the 1981 to 2010 annual average.

It is forecasting higher than average temperatures this year, too.

"The winter season did bring quite a bit of rainfall to Northland and Auckland, but when you're talking about not just the year 2020 but in fact 2019 was a pretty dry as well, it has a compounding effect," Noll said.

"If, say, out of your four seasons of the year three are dry, well, that's not going to set you up well."

NIWA found six of the past eight years have been among New Zealand's warmest on record.

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