Pastures are running dry, kiwi are out during the day, and river levels are sinking critically as Northland is struggling with the aftermath of 2019's record dry spells – with no significant rainfall in sight.
Ben Noll, meteorologist for National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), confirmed that the region isn't only struggling because it's dry right now, but Northlanders are noticing effects from last year's record dry.
"Northland had several prolonged dry spells in 2019, and the rainfall was below normal which starts to add up."
He said both Whangārei and Kaitaia areas had the driest year on record in 2019, and Dargaville the fourth driest.
Kaitaia registered an all-time temperature record on January 29 with 31.2C.
Noll said it didn't look too promising for the next 7-10 days with a slight chance of scattered rain.
"I don't see any chance for soaking rainfall that would eliminate the ongoing dryness."
Northland fire services implemented a total fire ban yesterday, and all fire permits have been cancelled.
No official drought has been declared yet, however farmers and horticulturists have long been noticing the effects of the ongoing weather conditions.
Avocados and golden kiwis are mostly affected across Northland's orchards as fruit won't size up properly.
Robert Bradley, manager of the Whangārei Growers Market, said it was quite a simple matter: no water, no plants.
"The rainfall is quite variable from one part of Northland to the other so some have it a lot worse. The southern end of Kaipara, for example, is notoriously dry and their avocado orchards depend on aquifers. They are going to have a lot of problems. Kaitaia is going to run dry soon, too.
"The crop for the next season is being set now. If we don't get more rain those little fruitlets will prune themselves off which will affect the harvest next season."
According to Bradley, Northlanders are usually prepared for dry conditions but because there hasn't been sufficient rain previous years, aquifers didn't refill properly which is now causing problems.
Okaihau dairy farmer Roger Hutchings will have to make decisions about reducing his stock soon if there isn't enough grass to feed his 700 cows.
"We had no significant rain since December 15, I believe. The grass growth has slowed down, and we're having to feed pasture silage."
His milk production is down by 12 per cent on a daily basis. Hutchings said the focus was to feed the cows enough so they wouldn't lose too much weight without overgrazing the pastures.
He might have to look at drying off some of his stock or sending them for culling earlier in the year.
Not only primary industries are hoping for some rainfall; local wildlife is having to deal with the dry conditions too, and Northlanders have been noticing kiwi out during the daytime looking for food.
Todd Hamilton, project manager of Backyard Kiwi, explained that kiwi don't usually drink water because they get their moisture from eating bugs and worms.
"Because there aren't many bugs around and the ground is too dry to dig for them, the kiwi are travelling further and longer amounts of time. That is why some people see them out during the daylight."
The lack of food and water also affected the breeding season, with most couples only having hatched one egg so far. Hamilton said at this time of the year, kiwi are usually hatching their second egg.
While the meagre breeding season would be a "blip" in the kiwi population growth, Hamilton said because the overall number of kiwi had significantly increased it would not have a severe impact on the population growth.
To ensure vulnerable kiwi are safe, Hamilton recommended dog owners be extra vigilant.
"Also, if people have water troughs or fish ponds on their property where kiwi could fall into it would be good to build a little ladder or ramp with stones so the kiwi can climb back out and don't drown."
People should also be wary of swimming in and using water from lakes and rivers that might have toxic cyanobacteria blooms as streams are running low across the region.
Colin Dall, Northland Regional Council's manager for regulatory services, said most rivers were below their average water level, including Whangarei's Hatea River. Awanui River and Wairoro Stream are the worst affected.
About half a dozen consent holders – mainly in the Mid and Far North areas – are no longer able to source water in accordance with their resource consent conditions and NRC has also imposed restrictions on other users.