Sunny smiles could turn sour

Last updated 14:30 26/01/2013

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While forecasts of a spell of warm and settled weather has brought a smile to most people, parts of the country are becoming uncomfortably dry and could do with a good drenching.

Niwa data shows that most of the North Island has received far less rainfall than usual so far this month.

Northland, and parts of Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa have received less than 40 per cent of normal, with the Coromandel Peninsula and northern Bay of Plenty getting less than 10 per cent.

Soil moisture levels are between 30mm and 50mm below normal in an area from mid-Northland to around Lake Taupo. Only a few slivers of area in the North Island between Taranaki and Wellington are near normal.

Northland Regional Council is warning water users to prepare for possible shortages and restrictions, after rainfall was significantly lower than normal in many parts of the region in recent months.

Many parts of Northland needed 80mm to 100mm of rain during the next few weeks to ease the problem, and avoid shortages and possibly restrictions.

Last week, Waikato Regional Council said it was closely watching dry conditions in the region, monitoring the potential for ongoing dry weather to affect farming and other activities.

But it also noted the conditions had been predicted, and so far it had not received any reports of widespread weather-related stress among the region's farmers.

Use of sprinklers is restricted in Hamilton city and Waikato and Waipa districts.

In Hawke's Bay, showers overnight Thursday had little impact on the dryness of the region, Hawke's Bay Regional Council said.

Without more significant rain, it was expected some irrigation takes would have to cease next week.

The council was encouraging irrigator groups to roster and ration water, and work together to draw out the resource availability.

Yesterday Auckland Council imposed a complete ban on fires, as a warm, dry weekend with strengthening wind loomed.

In the past week properties on Great Barrier Island were evacuated while a scrub fire was contained.

In the Western Bay of Plenty, fire permits are only being issued when absolutely necessary as fire danger readings reach the "very high" or "extreme" level.

Hastings district has had a total fire ban since mid-December.

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