The spectre of another drought on the east coast of the North Island is on the horizon, rather than the rain farmers badly need.
The latest monthly rainfall figures released by Hawke's Bay Regional Council show why there are concerns.
Almost no rain is forecast for any part of Hawke's Bay in the next week. That may not be good news for farmers, but will be for the rest of the population wanting a little local exercise under alert level 3 restrictions.
The council's release of the figures comes also as climate agency Niwa reveals that nationwide it's been the driest winter on its records - beating a previous record set just last year.
Drawn from dozens of recording stations from the coast to the ranges and from Urewera country to Central Hawke's Bay, HBRC's figures show rainfall in the region in August averaged just 76 per cent of the month's average calculated over the past 30 years.
It was the second month in a row of below-average rainfall in the region, after above- average rainfall in April and May. But rainfall across Hawke's Bay has been above average in only six months of the past two years.
Regional council principal scientist Dr Kathleen Kozyniak, considering the drought of last year, said: "It's been a dry couple of years so to a certain extent we're still playing catch-up, with close to average rainfall. It's not altogether unusual though to have consecutive dry years."
Across the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha plains of the Napier and Hastings area and Central Hawke's Bay, it's been above average in only four months of last year, including the near area record 24-hour rainfalls of November 9 that caused flooding in Napier. In the direst period, rainfall in some areas slipped to as low at a tenth of the monthly average.
The heaviest rainfall for August in Hawke's Bay was 205.5mm at Waikaremoana station Mt Manuoha, but it was just 78 per cent of the August average of 262mm.
The heaviest in the ranges west of Napier Hastings and Waipukurau were the 158mm at Kaweka station Ngahere (74 per cent of August average) and Ruahine Ranges station Glenwood, with 172.5mm (93 per cent of August average), while the heaviest across the plains and into Southern Hawke's Bay was 119.5mm at Mangaorapa, near Porangahau, and 26 per cent up on the August average for the area.
The rainfall at the council's offices near the Napier CBD last month totalled 27.5mm, which compared with an August average of 59mm, and at Hastings station Bridge Pa there were 31.2mm, compared with an August average of 51mm.
Hawke's Bay features of the Niwa summary for June-August include that Mahia, Waipawa and Dannevirke each had their highest winter mean maximum temperature.
Wairoa also had its lowest winter rainfall in the 57 years since comparative records were first kept in 1964.
On June 27, both Wairoa and Dannevirke had the highest daily minimum temperature, in Dannevirke's case in records dating back 70 years to 1951.
Long-range Hawke's Bay rural forecasts by national weather agency MetService predict mainly fine weather for the next nine to 10 days, apart from "late rain" on Tuesday. Maximum temperatures in the Napier-Hastings area are expected to be 18-20C later in the week, with minimum temperatures later in the week dropping no lower than 4-5C.
Level 3 restrictions, which mean no Ranfurly Shield matches, race days or weekend parties, and ban non-essential travel, remain in place until at least 11.59pm on Tuesday.