Dramatic satellite images of the country taken a year apart highlight the North Island's desperate need for rain as the drought continues.

Some relief is expected this weekend with Cyclone Sandra expected to bring rain to most places - the first decent fall since mid-January.

The heaviest falls are forecast for the West Coast of the South Island.

Images taken over recent weeks show how the country has become increasingly brown as drought conditions have spread.


The image taken on Tuesday shows a swathe of dry land from the tip of Northland to Lake Taupo, and the lower west and lower east coast of the North Island.

The top of the South Island is also tinder dry.

Green patches can be seen in Taranaki, south of Taupo, the East Coast and Wellington - despite fears of water shortages in the capital.

Climate scientist Jim Salinger said the difference between the images were unsurprising because last summer was one of the wettest on records, and this summer was one of the driest.

Weather patterns showed that droughts, especially for the North Island, could become more frequent, Dr Salinger said.

The North Island has not experienced a drought so severe for 70 years.

Dr Salinger said if current weather patterns continued, New Zealand's climate would be similar to that of the Mediterranean.