Meat & Livestock News

High and Dry for Many as We Go into March


  • New Zealand faces significant dry conditions as February ends and March begins, with several regions experiencing severe dryness.
  • El Niño contributes to the country’s dry end to summer, bringing windy weather and varying temperatures across different regions.
  • Upcoming weather includes brief showers in the north, a weak front in the south, and a return to high pressure with possible weekend rain.

As New Zealand transitions from February to March, the country is grappling with notably dry conditions, affecting various regions to different extents. The shift into March doesn’t bring immediate relief, with cooler mornings, heavier dews, and still mild to hot afternoons. Regions such as Marlborough, Wellington, Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay (south of the Napier-Taupō Highway), Horowhenua, Manawatū, parts of Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, and Bay of Plenty are particularly dry.

Notably, some areas in Bay of Plenty might see slight relief just before this report’s publication.

Comparing the current state to a year ago, only Nelson, Blenheim, and Christchurch/Rangiora faced similar dry conditions, while the North Island was recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle and other rain events. The dry conditions can be attributed to El Niño, which, despite a slow start, has been prevalent throughout the summer.

The South Island and lower North Island have reported an increase in windy conditions, a hallmark of El Niño, characterised by high pressure over southern Australia and New Zealand’s north, fostering westerly winds. High pressure systems crossing New Zealand bring dry weather, with cooler southerly flows introducing frosts, as observed in Central Otago. When these highs shift east, warmer nor’westers and sub-tropical airflows follow.

Temperature variations have been noted, with Southland and Coastal Otago experiencing a cooler summer. This is in line with Victoria and Tasmania in Australia, which also receive cooler Southern Ocean airflows. The orientation of cold fronts and the Southern Alps’ geography limit rain reaching the east and north, maintaining calmer and drier conditions for the upper North Island.

The anticipated dry and hot summer warned about last year, has materialised, with El Niño and autumn’s windy westerlies making the season feel more pronounced. The upcoming March ClimateWatch outlook, to be released on, will provide further insights into the month’s weather expectations.

Comparing soil moisture deficits from late February 2023 to the same period in 2024 reveals a more severe situation this year.

The week ahead forecasts a relatively dry Monday with a few showers in the north and a weak front approaching the south. The east of New Zealand, towards Hawke’s Bay, will see a cold front with minimal rainfall totals. High-pressure returns briefly mid-week, with potential showers and patchy rain from the west over the weekend.