Drought-prone Northland has been hit with drier-than-normal conditions this month but farmers in the region are not pushing the panic button just yet.

NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll said soil moisture levels have fallen almost everywhere across the North Island over the past fortnight, but with Northland showing up as a particularly hot spot. "It's not particularly good news at this point," Noll said.

The weather agency's weekly soil moisture report identifies areas deemed to be experiencing soil mosture deficits, or "hotspots".

Persistent hotspot regions have the potential to develop into drought, it said.


The driest soils across the North Island compared to normal for this time of the year are found in Northland and northern Auckland, while the wettest soils for this time of the year are found in southwestern Manawatu-Wanganui, NIWA said.

Looking ahead, NIWA said there was little prospect of a respite from the dry weather.

"In the driest areas - Northland and northern Auckland - less than 5mm of rainfall is expected over the next week. In central and southern Auckland, Waikato, and much of the east coast, less than 10mm is likely over the next week," NIWA said.

Federated Farmers Northland president John Blackwell said parts of the province were faring better than others.

"Farming wise, the east coast of Northland has had a drier time than the west," he said.

Farms around Kaitaia and Kerikeri were particularly hard hit and the situation there was becoming more serious by the day, he said.

"What saved us though was that we had a pretty good spring and we had a wet September, so the amount of hay that was made - particulartly in the west coast - was significant," he said. In addition, stock prices had managed to hold up quite well, he said.

"For the next few weeks we will manage but if it carries on this like this into February, we will have a few issues," he said.

Roger Ludbrook, who has a cattle farm near Paihia, in Bay of Islands, said farmers were not panicking about the weather just yet.

"It's just summer-dry - drier than we would like it to be - but we still have February and March to go," Ludbrook said.

NIWA said "hotspots" remain in place across nearly the entire eastern coast of the North Island, the Coromandel Peninsula, northern Waikato, Auckland, and all of Northland.

Soils in the Coromandel Peninsula, northern Waikato, Auckland, and Northland are extremely drier than normal, it said.

Since last week, the hotspot in the northern Waikato has expanded to include parts of the central and southern part of the region. Furthermore, a small hotspot has now developed across southwestern Taranaki.

Across the South Island, soil moisture levels have generally remained the same or decreased over the past week.

Small decreases were observed in Nelson and Marlborough, with a larger decrease across interior Otago, Southland, and interior southwestern Canterbury.

A marginal increase was observed in coastal middle and northern Canterbury.

The driest soils in the South Island compared to normal for this time of the year are found across interior Southland, to the northwest of Invercargill.

The wettest soils for this time of year are found along the upper West Coast. Small hotspots remain in place from coastal to interior Otago and have expanded to include interior Southland and interior southwestern Canterbury.