Wellington's dry spell is over but don't expect a quick fix to the city's water woes.
Rain start falling in Wellington for the first time since early February this morning, with light showers reported throughout the region.
However, the Kelburn weather station did not registered the rain, so we may still break the record for the city's longest ever dry spell.
The record at the Kelburn weather station, set in 1919, stands at 38 days.
Got good rain photos?
Email them, with your name, to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Metservice forecaster Brooke Lockhart said the the region will experience smattering of "patchy" rain throughout the day but would have to wait till Monday for a decent deluge.
On Monday, the Wellington region is expected to received between 15 and 30mm of rain, which will carry on into Tuesday.
"For anybody hoping for water that is going to be helpful."
After that however, it will be a return to dry and sunny for the rest of the week.
DROUGHT COSTS RISING
The costs of the North Island drought are headed toward $2 billion, Finance Minister Bill English says.
English said the Government was getting updated advice over the next few weeks from Treasury but the latest estimates indicated "somewhere between one and two billion will be knocked off our national income".
"And as every week goes by the prospect of it being $2 billion instead of $1 billion grows."
Experts say just three days of rain is needed to end the worst drought in 70 years but it could soon be too late to make a difference to farmers.
Climate scientist Jim Salinger said the North Island required at least 352 mm of rain to get grass growing again but by May it would be too late.
English told TVNZ's Q+A the drought had potential to knock 30 per cent off New Zealand's growth rate in a year.
"This underlines for us the importance o fnz primary production sector."
WHAT IT TAKES TO END THE BIG DRY
Just three days of consistent rain is needed to end the worst drought in 70 years, but meteorologists say if it doesn't come soon it will be too late for farmers.
The North Island requires at least 362mm of rain to get grass growing again. Another three days of moderate rain would nurture new seedlings, climate scientist Jim Salinger said.
But there is a deadline.
"By May it's too late. Come winter, it will be too cold and the damage will already be done."
The rain has to be the right type as well - moderate, not a sudden downpour. Any deluge will muddy the ground and impede growth.
There was drizzle in some areas yesterday and rain is forecast for today and tomorrow in many parts of the country. But dry sunny spells are expected to continue for the rest of the month, with normal rainfall expected for April, meteorologist Richard Turner said.
Drought was officially declared over the North Island last week. The Grey and Buller districts are also on drought watch.
This is the worst drought in New Zealand in 70 years due to its severity and regional spread, Salinger said. Previously the highest record rainfall needed was in the summer of 1945-46, when the soil moisture deficit was 361mm.
It's been a summer of troubling milestones with a total North Island fire ban and outdoor water ban in Wellington after authorities announced last week there were just 20 days of supply left.
Garden hoses and public fountains may remain off for another fortnight with fines of up to $20,000 for anyone who flouts the restrictions.
Public pool showers may also be switched off.
Typically much of the North Island gets 11 rain days in March and 12 to 14 in April. But most places have not received anything since February 5.
Long dry spells are expected to double by 2040 as the country heads towards a Mediterranean climate.
Droughts cost around $2.5 billion between 1997 and 1999, and $2.8b in 2007-2008, Salinger said.
Federated Farmers has set up a "feedline" to match farmers with feed supplies. And chartered boats and train carriages are being sought to carry feed from the South Island.
"Even if it rains tomorrow, it will take three to four weeks to get enough grass cover," national president Bruce Wills said.
"If the rain doesn't come in the next month or so it will be a difficult winter period. With the cold the grass won't grow so it will be spring before we get anything."
Fertilizer company Ravensdown has offered to carry 6000 straw bales on a South Island return trip. Hamburg Sud offered to fill 30 containers with feed.
The Government is offering rural assistance payments through Work and Income to those in extreme hardship.
"Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available," Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said.
The ministry, Beef + Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ are among those providing support to farmers.
THE BARE FACTS
UV levels: UV levels in February and March have been up 20 per cent from normal. Sunscreen sales jumped by at least 30 per cent from December.
Cool relief: Icecream and ice block sales are up at least seven per cent from last summer.
Tomatoes: The hot weather has contributed to a bumper crop of quality tomatoes, which are retailing around $2 a kilo.
Sports: The winter sports season could be delayed in parts of the North Island due to dry fields, impacting rugby, league and football.
Butterflies: Insects are struggling to find water but none so much as the monarch butterfly, which relies solely on domestic swan plants.
Birds: Kiwi and other native birds are struggling to find food and water in parts of the country, with younger birds at risk of starvation.
Rained off: Womad festival-goers were rained on in New Plymouth yesterday, and a primary school cricket game was called off.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you always wear a helmet while cycling?Related story: Cyclists creative on cycle helmet waivers