The Bay of Plenty region's dry spell is becoming "diabolical" for farmers and has firefighters on high alert, with rain recorded on only eight days this year.

MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said there had been no rainfall recorded at Rotorua Airport this month and in January there were eight days where the airport recorded rainfall.

"The only day that I would say would be significant rainfall was the 14th of January, where 32mm fell. All of the other days were 3mm or less."

Glassey said the monthly total rainfall for January was 44.4mm, with 32mm of it falling on the one day.


"So it is quite dry."

He said the January average was 77mm, so there had been about half that and the upcoming forecast was not looking any wetter.

"It is looking quite dry for the next week at least. It doesn't rule out the odd isolated shower, but there's certainly nothing significant in the way of rain for next week - nothing we would call significant rain."

Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll said their record of rainfall for January this year was 62.8mm of rain, with January 2018 being 240.6mm.

"So, there is quite a big difference there."

He said there was 220.6mm of rain recorded in February last year, with no measurable rainfall in Rotorua for February this year.

He said Niwa looked at the New Zealand drought index to determine meteorological drought, including things like soil moisture.

Noll said Rotorua was currently not on that scale and they would have to keep an eye on how things were tracking over the next week.


However, deputy principal rural fire officer Steve Webb said as firefighters battle blazes in Nelson, the Bay of Plenty was facing a "bordering extreme" fire hazard.

There was a total fire ban in place, he said.

Webb urged people to be vigilant and to ask the fire service for advice if they had an existing fire permit.

The firefighting force had dropped in numbers as five staff had travelled to Nelson to help with blazes in Pigeon Valley, 30km southwest of Nelson.

Ten extra staff were also on standby to head to the Tasman region if needed.

It was unlikely a scenario similar to Nelson would unfold, but there were "pockets of vegetation" that reach a similar dryness level, he said.

"There's some wind that's forecast that gives us the jitters."

Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers provincial president Darryl Jensen said the dry spell was starting to "bite" farmers.

Farmers were coping, for now, thanks to surplus winter feed gathered from earlier in the summer, but this was not going to last.

The warm weather had forced farmers to make the hard calls by culling "unproductive" animals or selling extra stock earlier than usual, he said.

Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupō provincial sharemilker chairman Alastair Neville said there had been a decline in milk production due to "heat-stressed" cows.

It could become a long-term issue if pasture growth heading into autumn was impacted, he said.

Rotorua farmer Bryce Heard said the dry spell was causing a "diabolical" situation for farmers, and they were desperately in need of rainfall.

He said he was almost completely out of grass and was fully into the winter feed about three or four months earlier than normal, meaning winter feed was starting to deplete already.

"We are digging into winter fodder and can't save any for winter. It's a real problem."

Heard said he had young stock which were meant to be starting to wean off and feed, but instead they would have to feed the mother and hope she could feed the young stock.

He said it was also hard to sell stock because others did not have food either.

He had been talking to other farmers recently who were in a similar situation.

Weather forecast for Rotorua
February 9 - High 23C, overnight 12C. Partly cloudy, chance shower afternoon or evening. Light winds.
February 10 - High 25C, overnight 14C. Cloudy periods, a few spots of rain possible from the afternoon. Light winds.
February 11 - High 27C, overnight 14C. Mainly fine, some morning cloud. Light winds.
Source: MetService