The Nelson/Tasman region can expect no immediate relief from the bone-dry conditions that allowed a massive fire to explode out of Pigeon Valley near Wakefield yesterday.

The MetService forecast holds no hope of moisture falling in the area until Friday, when there is the "chance of a shower". Temperatures of up to 21C are expected tomorrow and Friday.

Forecaster Rob Kerr said a front would move up the country on Sunday. But the pattern in force since last month has been for fronts to weaken by the time they reach Nelson.

Sunday is expected to deliver no more than a few overnight showers to the parched region and even those are more likely to fall on the western ranges than in the crisp and burnt valleys that descend towards Wakefield, Brightwater and the Waimea Plains.


People in the Wakefield area reported a drop in the wind and a shower of rain this morning. But the wind soon picked up again and the village was enveloped in smoke from the fire.

Kerr said the spots of rain at Nelson Airport today were not enough to be measured by the rain gauge, which needed at least 0.2mm to record rain.

"Kaiteriteri just north of Motueka had a little bit more rain, but it was just a light dampening on the road, and there was maybe just over 2mm recorded up on Takaka Hill, but nothing of any consequence on the eastern side of the bay this morning."

Civil Defence, which published an updated fire map this afternoon said it was expected to be up to three days before those evacuated from their homes could return to them.

The region is tinder-dry, with the area desperate for rain after next to none for more than 40 days.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) says extreme dryness in Nelson and Tasman has provided further fuel for the fire currently raging in the area.

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A Civil Defence emergency has been declared as an army of firefighters battles a blaze that spread from Pigeon Valley to cover 1870ha of land within a perimeter of 20km.

Last night, 1 to 2mm of rain was recorded at Takaka Hill road.

This January had been "remarkably" drier than last year, Kerr said.

Only 6mm of rain had fallen in January 2019, down from last year's total of 220mm when two tropical cyclones battered the country with rain and wind.

In contrast, the average rainfall for January in Tasman was between 60mm and 70mm.

The dry forecast was bad news as the Tasman area had not had significant rainfall since Christmas Day, 44 days ago when the area got 13.6mm of rain.

"There may be some spots of rain looking into the weekend as another front makes its way across on Monday.

"There will be a dumping on the West Coast and it will stall over the weekend, by the time it gets to Nelson there will be not much left."

Both Nelson and Appleby had 355 sunshine hours, which is a record for the sunniest month ever observed in the South Island, Niwa said.

Further north today there was a moderate risk of thunderstorms about inland Waikato, Waitomo and Taumarunui this afternoon and evening.

"If these thunderstorms occur they are likely to be accompanied by localised heavy rain with intensities of 10 to 25mm per hour.

"Outside the moderate risk area, there is a low risk of thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening for South Auckland, western Bay of Plenty and Taupō."

Your weather
Whangārei: Fine. Southeast breezes developing morning. High 27C Low 18C.

Auckland: Morning cloud then fine. Cloud returns evening with one or two overnight showers. Southerly breezes tending easterly late evening. High 27C Low 17C.

Tauranga: Mainly fine, then brief showers late afternoon or evening. Southeasterlies developing evening. High 29C Low 16C.

Napier: A fine start, but showers developing with strong southerly change late morning. Showers gradually clearing. High 23C Low 14C.

Whanganui: Cloudy with drizzle at first. Showers with a strong southeast change late morning, clearing in the afternoon. High 22C Low 11C.

Wellington: Chance of an early light shower, but fine spells developing towards late morning. Strong southerlies. High 19C Low 12C.

Nelson: Cloudy with chance morning shower, then fine spells increasing. Easterlies. High 21C Low 11C.

Christchurch: Morning cloud and chance shower, then becoming fine afternoon. Cool southerlies dying out evening. High 16C Low 7C.

Dunedin: Fine, but morning and evening cloud. Cool southwesterlies dying out evening. High 14C Low 9C.