December was one of the driest on record in some places around New Zealand, reports Niwa.

Among the towns experiencing a record lack of rain was Ohakune which had only 19mm, its lowest for December since records began in 1961. It was only 15 per cent of the town's normal rainfall. Hawera had 26mm of rain, its third lowest since records started in 1977. It was 28 per cent of normal rainfall for the month.

Sunshine hours were also up with Turangi recording 260 hours for December, 132 per cent of normal and the highest since records began in 1976.

During December 2015, strong El Nino conditions continued in the Tropical Pacific, said the Niwa report.

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This contributed to the prevalence of high pressure over and to the west of the country while lower pressure than normal existed to the east of New Zealand. This pressure pattern resulted in more south-westerlies than normal over the South Island and more southerlies than normal over the North Island.

"The dominance of high pressure throughout December meant that the month as a whole was very dry."

At a glance:

* The highest temperature was 36.4°C, observed at Leeston on December 21.

* The lowest temperature was -0.7°C, observed at Hanmer Forest on December 7.

* The highest 1-day rainfall was 161mm, recorded at Milford Sound on December 2.

* Of the available, regularly reporting sunshine observation sites, the sunniest four locations in 2015 (January 1 to December 31) were: Blenheim (2803 hours), Whakatane (2785 hours), Lake Tekapo (2737 hours) and Appleby (2731 hours).