Wellington's hot, dry weather broke 30-year-old records last month.
Christmas Day and the early hours of Boxing Day morning proved real scorchers, with Wellington Airport hitting 29.6 degrees Celsius on December 25, barely falling to 19.6C overnight.
Those temperatures were respectively the highest and second highest since records began in 1972.
Figures released by Niwa today show both the daily maximum and minimum temperatures were warmer than normal for December.
Metservice's Kelburn site recorded a daily maximum temperature average of 19.5C and a minimum of 13.2C, both almost 1C higher than previous records.
Wellington recorded 217 sunshine hours for the month, which is about normal for December, but Niwa climate scientist Dr Andrew Tait says the region was generally warmer.
FARMERS FEEL THE HEAT
The long hot days already taking their toll on farmers are set to continue for months.
Niwa's forecasts show the east coast of New Zealand will be drier compared to the same time last year, while the west will be wetter.
As a result, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay will see a continuation of the above average scorching weather that had been present since spring.
Parts of Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa received less than half of their normal rainfall in December, while coastal areas were lucky if they received 30 per cent.
Farmers are being forced to remove stock as paddocks become increasingly parched.
Niwa principal scientist Brett Mullan said three months of above-average rainfall would be required to get those dry paddocks back to normal.
''That's very unlikely to happen,'' he said.
Castlepoint sheep and beef farmer Anders Crofoot said a lack of spring rainfall and limited pasture growth meant some farmers had already de-stocked far more than previous years.
''Without a decent spring I wasn't heading in to summer with what I wanted, so I took the steps to de-stock,'' he said.
Nearby towns and businesses would also feel the pinch as farmers stopped spending as a result of lost earnings, Mr Crofoot said.
''There will be an immediate flow-through effect to the community and over the next six months when farmers would normally be spending, businesses and contractors will notice the difference.''
Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills said East Coast farmers were already feeling the heat.
''I've been hearing from a bunch in the Wairarapa and a bunch in central Hawke's Bay that things are starting to get tough but very little from anyone else,'' he said.
Hawke's Bay farmer Steve Wyn-Harris says Waipukurau was missing a lot of the rain that other areas seemed to be getting.
- The Dominion Post
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