Glitch gives Nelson edge in sunshine wars

Blenheim has outshone Nelson in the sunshine stakes, stepping up the fierce rivalry in the weather wars between the regions, but the Marlborough town's sunshine hours won't be counted after a recording glitch at the weather station.

Weather statistics from the government research institute the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) have become clouded in controversy.

Blenheim clocked up 1352 sunshine hours this year - eight hours behind friendly foes Nelson, Niwa said.

Missing data from the Blenheim weather station on January 1 and July 3 due to a calibration error could not be included.

Forecaster Chris Brandolino said if data was omitted from those two days in Nelson, Blenheim would have been ahead by one sunshine hour.

Despite being ahead in theory, Blenheim could not be reinstated in the top five sunniest spots in New Zealand, Brandolino said.

Sun-soaked Whakatane and Tauranga continue to lead the way, followed by Takaka and Nelson.

Mayor Alistair Sowman said traditionally it had been a top of the south competition until the North Island sprung out of nowhere.

"Historically we had the edge over Nelson, but we slipped down the rankings and Whakatane have appeared from nowhere. Whether they had new apparatus, I don't know. We even suggested the Nelson mayor had put measuring equipment on the roof of his car and was driving around following the sun.

"It is disappointing we are not in the top five. We need to get a search party out for those missing sunshine hours."

Plant and Food scientist scientist Rob Agnew, who oversees Blenheim weather station based at Marlborough Research Centre, said Marlburians prided themselves on leading the sunny stakes and Blenheim should be reinstated.

His data showed there had been 173.6 hours during the first seven months of year, which would have placed Blenheim on the sunny top spot.

"The difficulty was for two or three days in July Niwa calibration of the weather station made a few errors and statistics were missing."

Beating Nelson had become a running Marlburian joke, Agnew said.

"There has always been a rivalry between Blenheim and Nelson, and no one else had a look in. It has been a tourist thing."

There had been controversy over previous weather recordings in New Zealand, Agnew said.

"Whakatane made a big thing four or five years ago about being the sunniest town in New Zealand beating Blenheim and Nelson. Marlburians got quite upset."

The following year in 2010 Whakatane topped the sunshine stakes again and a two-car convoy set off from the Bay of Plenty town to Blenheim with one can packed full of rays for each of its 2561 hours of sunshine.

Mayor Alistair Sowman saw the funny side and still keeps a can of sunshine on his desk in council chambers.

The race was on from Blenheim to recover in the rankings. "We have a long way to go, so don't hold your breath," Agnew said.

The Marlborough Express