More water bans in pipeline for Far North after record dry weather in Northland


Officials fear Northland could take years to recover from record dry conditions, with 2019 one of the driest years in decades.

The Far North is on the brink of further water restrictions due to the arid conditions and a total fire ban is imminent.

The use of hoses will be banned in Kawakawa and Moerewa from December 14, adding to a hose ban already in place in Kaikohe and a sprinkler ban in South Hokianga.

Fields around Northland are starting to dry out, as this picture of Whakapara from January 8 shows.

Denise Piper/Stuff

Fields around Northland are starting to dry out, as this picture of Whakapara from January 8 shows.

Without significant rain soon, water restrictions could become widespread, said Far North District Council manager of infrastructure operations, Glenn Rainham.

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“The level of the Awanui River (which supplies the Kaitaia water scheme) has been steadily dropping over the summer season. If that continues, restrictions will need to be imposed on the Kaitaia supply,” he said.

With no significant rain forecast, both Kaitaia and Okaihau were likely to need sprinkler bans in the next few weeks, while the Kerikeri and Paihia schemes were being closely monitored, Rainham said.

A ban on all outdoor hoses could be needed in the South Hokianga, he said.

The use of hoses is about to be banned in Kawakawa and Moerewa, adding to existing water restrictions in the Far North.

FROGTRAVEL/123RF

The use of hoses is about to be banned in Kawakawa and Moerewa, adding to existing water restrictions in the Far North.

The restrictions come as official figures confirm 2019 was one of the driest years on record in Northland for many decades, with Kaitaia and Whangārei airport having its driest year on record.

Northland Regional Council figures also show Puhipuhi (north of Whangārei) had its second driest year and Kerikeri had its third driest year.

With such a large rainfall deficit, it could take the region a number of years to recover, even once summer was over and rain started again, said council group manager regulatory services Colin Dall.

Central Brown AFC is living up to its name with a very brown field, at its location just south of Whangaārei.

Denise Piper/Stuff

Central Brown AFC is living up to its name with a very brown field, at its location just south of Whangaārei.

The regional council was keeping a close eye on falling river levels, with about half a dozen water users having to stop taking water from low-flowing rivers. 

Some restrictions on other users had also been imposed, with the mid-north and far north areas being the most impacted, he said. 

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s (Niwa) annual climate summary, released on Thursday, showed 2019 was warm and dry for Northland.

It was New Zealand’s fourth-warmest year on record, with annual temperatures ranging from 0.5C to 1.2C above average.

2019 NORTHLAND RAIN RECORDS:

  • Kaitaia: 791mm rain (59% of average) – driest since records began in 1949.
  • Whangārei airport: 837mm rain (61% of average) – driest since records began in 1943.
  • Puhipuhi: 1100mm rain (55% of average) – second driest since records began in 1914.
  • Kerikeri: 1165mm rain – third driest since records began in 1945.
  • Ngunguru: 967mm (54% of average) – driest since records began in the 1980s.
  • Brynderwyn (south of Whangārei): 976mm (70% of average) – driest since records began in the 1980s.

– Figures from Northland Regional Council

2019 NORTHLAND TEMPERATURE RECORDS:

  • Kerikeri: 21.3C annual average maximum temperature – highest since records began in 1945 (average of 16.0C was also the third-highest annual average).
  • Whangārei: 21.3C annual average maximum temperature – highest since records began in 1967 (average of 16.6C also third-highest annual average temperature).
  • Kaitaia: 31.2C on January 29 – highest January maximum temperature since records began in 1948.
  • Whangārei: 25.6C on October 27 – highest October maximum temperature since records began in 1967.
  • Kaitaia: 26.4C on November 4 – highest November maximum temperature since records began in 1948. Also 17.0C on November 4 – highest minimum temperature for November.  
  • Kerikeri: 29.4C on November 4 – highest November maximum temperature since records began in 1945. Also 16.9C on November 4 – highest minimum temperature for November. 
  • Kaikohe: 28.4C on November 4 – highest November maximum temperature since records began in 1973. Also 15.6C on November 4 – highest minimum temperature for November. 
  • Whangārei: 29.4C on November 5 – highest November maximum temperature since records began in 1967. Also 16.7C on November 4 – highest minimum temperature for November.

– Temperatures from Niwa