It was a sunnier, drier year for most of the country in 2015.

Niwa's [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] annual climate summary shows it was the driest year on record for Kaitaia, which recorded 75 per cent (941mm) of its normal annual rainfall, and Kerikeri which recorded 63 per cent (1071mm).

Rainfall was also below normal at 50 to 79 per cent of the annual normal in Northland, Tasman, Nelson, Canterbury, eastern Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Wellington.

Below normal soil moisture levels were also noted for most parts of the country throughout the warmer months of the year. Soil was particularly dry in central and north Otago, Canterbury and Marlborough leading to a drought being officially declared early in the year.

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The report attributed the drier weather, in part, to the El Nino weather pattern which prevailed for much of the year and continued to intensify throughout the second half of the year becoming a key climate driver for the country.

"By many measures this El Nino developed into one of the strongest since 1950," the report said.

There was more sun than usual throughout much of the South Island as well as northern and eastern parts of the North Island seeing 110 to more than 125 per cent of the annual normal. Several locations observed their highest annual sunshine total on record.

Despite the extra sun, temperatures were near average across much of the country, barring the Bay of Plenty and Queenstown Lakes district which recorded temperatures 0.51 to 1.2 degrees centigrade above the annual average.

There were still a few "extreme" temperature events with a minus 21C recorded at Tara Hills in Otago on June 2 - the lowest extreme minimum since records began. Cheviot in North Canterbury recorded the highest extreme maximum temperature of 36.1C since records began.