How long can this golden weather last? That is a question New Zealanders do not normally ask until February, or March if we are lucky.

This summer started in October. At Halloween the South Island was in a heatwave with Alexandra recording 26C and even Invercargill enjoying 25.6C. The North Island was not much cooler. Since then the sizzling sunshine has continued through November into December and there are still nearly two weeks to Christmas.

Sea temperatures, which are the main influence on New Zealand's weather, are being described by the MetService as "extremely warm" for this time of year. It takes time for water to warm up, and to cool down, which is why this country normally waits until well after the sun has reached the solstice for beach weather.

But once it arrives, the slowly cooling sea keeps the weather warm and settled through the New Zealand autumn. With the sea so much warmer and the sun not yet at its height, it is quite possible this golden weather will last for another three or four months.


And that raises the question, will water supplies last? Meteorologists say parts of the country are facing a drought. Pastoral farmers are already bracing themselves for a unusually dry summer, looking to reduce their grazing stock.

Most days contain some rain in their forecast for a few regions but unless the "isolated showers" expected north of Auckland today are a good deal heavier than the light drizzle Auckland enjoyed on Sunday, it is not going to change the outlook.

"Enjoy" is not a word normally associated with rain in this country. It is not until we experience a dry spell that we appreciate the weather that keeps the country fertile and pleasant.

Warmer sea normally increases evaporation and produces some heavy rain and since this summer has a "La Nina" weather pattern we should get tropical low pressure generating storms. But for many weeks we have seen nothing but stationary high pressure systems over the country. Temperatures have been 8C hotter than average and Niwa is predicting it to remain hotter than normal until the end of February.

Councils have been asking households to use less water since the beginning of December in an attempt to avoid hose bans but the point must be approaching when stronger restrictions are required.

We are not accustomed to conserving water in this country, or not for more than a week or two when a mishap occurs in a municipal supply. We are probably still liberally filling pools, watering gardens and washing cars, leaving taps on and hoses running, ignoring evidence of underground leaks.

But the Napier City Council reported such a positive response from its citizens when its reservoirs were running out last week that it has now eased its hosing restrictions. Similar restrictions are in force in Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington and parts of the South Island. Aucklanders are being asked to save water as a precaution at this stage.

It is a precaution everyone should take. The world is starting to witness extremes of weather associated with climate change. Our sizzling early summer could be the first of many. We may have to value water more highly and use it carefully. It would do no harm to start now.