Snow down to 200m in southern Hawke's Bay on Sunday night and early yesterday was part of such a sudden cold snap it caught even the weatherman by surprise.

MetService forecaster Ciaran Doolin was surprised to hear snow had fallen in Dannevirke.

"I would have doubts about 200 metres [the altitude of Dannevirke]," he said, having had no reports of snow in the town, and having expected no snow below 400m in the lower North Island.

July, that's when it really kicks in, after the shortest day.


However, in Dannevirke, residents first noticed the snow at 9pm on Sunday night and Norsewood weather watcher Lyn McConchie said "it was definitely coming down, but seemed to be melting when it hit the ground".


"However, we had a bit more snow overnight and that remained in the morning in sheltered spots."

There were reports of snow further north into the Kaweka Range and areas west of Napier, where Aaron Morton of Te Waka Station, south-west of Te Pohue, said snow had fallen to about 600m.

While it was not unusual for the last week of May, it was a "bit of a shock to the system" after the warmer-than-usual autumn, in which temperatures had mainly remained between daily minimums of 10C and maximums well into the 20s until the end of last week.

In Dannevirke, the temperature dropped below zero by early yesterday morning, the town waking to remnants of snow and ice on windscreens, an obvious sign the long reign of the golden summer had vanished in the night.

A little further north, the Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year's wife, Sally Charteris of Forest Road Farm near Tikokino, noted there'd been a light dusting of snow outside overnight but reflected on the sudden change: "I don't think we've even had a frost yet."

According to Hawke's Bay Today files, the snow was almost on cue compared with recent years, with first falls each year since 2011 being between May 22 and 27, although last year there was some unseasonable snow near Dannevirke in mid-April.

The cold of the early morning in southern Hawke's Bay gave way to a finer day later, with a maximum temperature of about 12C in Dannevirke by early afternoon and 14C in the Napier-Hastings area, where it had originally been forecast to reach 17C.

Late yesterday, Mr Doolin said Hawke's Bay could expect chilly nights for at least the rest of the working week but mainly fine days were forecast, with maximum temperatures of up to 20C in the Napier-Hastings area, along with with westerly and north-westerly winds at times and of gale force in exposed places later in the week.

While rainfall of 65mm has now been recorded in Dannevirke this month, and up to twice that through Norsewood and the Takapau Plains, there has so far been little relief for farmers further north, with below-average rain from Napier north, including just 5.4mm at Mahia, less than 5 per cent of the recording station's May average of almost 130mm.

Mr Morton's wife, Sue, at Te Waka, said farmers hit by facial eczema among their stock would be relieved by the lower temperatures.

"It kills the bugs," she said.

Mr Morton, feeling for the affected farmers over the hills in the Patoka region, said it had been a good summer since a potential drought was broken by devastating storms which caused major lamb losses last September.

"You fall a few times and get straight back up again," he said. As for the bad stuff, he said: "July, that's when it really kicks in, after the shortest day."