Northland is on track for driest first half of the year on record as the effects of insufficient rainfall during summer and autumn begins to bite.
And there's more bad news, particularly for Northland farmers, as the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) is predicting the rainfall, soil moisture and river flows in Northland will be below normal from now until the end of August.
It prompted a warning from an industry leader that the already-dire situation could get worse if it didn't rain before calving began around July 7.
Statistics from MetService show Kaitaia recording just 214mm of rain from January 1 to June 20, just 32 percent of the 669mm average rainfall for that period — the lowest since records began in 1948.
The rain gauge is situated at Kaitaia Airport.
The next lowest Jan-June rainfall on record at Kaitaia for the same period was 389mm in 2010.
Whangārei has had just 229mm of rain so far this year which is only 37 per cent of the January to June 20 average of 636mm.
The previous driest January to June period in Whangārei was in 1994 when 338mm of rain was recorded.
Kerikeri has recorded only 387 mm of rainfall thus far this year. That's just 45 per cent or 858mm of the January to June 20 average rainfall figures. The previous driest January to June period was in 1994 when 475mm fell in Kerikeri.
Federated Farmers Northland dairy chairman, Ashley Cullen, said while pasture growth looked okay from sporadic rain recently, the water situation on farms was getting "dire".
"At the moment, the cows don't need a lot of water but their consumption increases dramatically as soon as they start calving. The ground conditions are slippery on top but it's very dry underneath," he said.
Cullen said insufficient rain last summer and autumn was beginning to have an impact.
On the west coast, Dargaville arguably has the lowest Jan-June rainfall total of 339mm since records began in 1905.
However, MetService said there was quite a bit of missing data since records began.
The normal Jan-June rainfall tally in Dargaville is 544mm. The next lowest Jan-June rain was in 1973 when 363mm fell.
While a lack of downpour is causing angst in the region, it's keeping water carriers in Whangārei busy.
Water 2 Go owner Andrew Kevey is carting four to five loads a day compared with last year when he said he was "doing nothing".
"Most of the water is going to Whangārei Heads because it's a bit drier there than anywhere else but I am also carrying water to places like Vinegar Hill Rd, Onerahi... places closer to town," Kevey said.
MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths said spring rainfall was going to be critical to growers and farmers in Northland if the region continued to have below-normal rain through this winter.
"This doesn't mean we won't see rain in the region – we almost certainly will at this time of year - but everything we look at indicates fewer rain makers for the Northland region than is normal at this time of year.
"The record-breaking dryness seen across the first half of the year, and the lack of winter rainfall so far, likely mean that spring rainfall is going to be "oh so important" to the growers and farmers of Northland.
Niwa forecasting principal scientist Chris Brandolino said the outlook for the rest of June was normal or below normal rain for Northland but the region needed multiple rain events to turn things around.
He said Kaitaia recorded the driest autumn on record since 1948 with only 91mm of rain, Whangārei had its second lowest autumn rainfall on record at 126mm while Dargaville had its fourth driest with only 182mm of rain.
Although water restrictions have been lifted across the Far North and Kaipara districts, people are being advised to use water sensibly.
Whangārei District Council water services manager Andrew Venmore said the Whau Valley and Wilsons dams have about 20 per cent less water than was expected at this time of the year.
The district had 400mm less rain so far this year and the first five months of 2019 was already the driest since council records began in 1971.
"It's unlikely we'll put water restrictions in place before spring. Our focus would be to encourage people to use less water. The dams are holding up at the moment but our challenge would be to get their capacity above 90 per cent in time for summer," Venmore said.
Up to 80 per cent of treated water comes from the dam and the other 20 per cent from Hatea River.
This month, WDC has increased its take from the river to 30 per cent but would not go higher in order to maintain river levels.