High temperature records are falling across the Bay and residents are basking in - and seeking relief - from the heat.
While summer's heat is temporary, experts say climate change is not.
For decades, we've discussed how to mitigate and adapt to more extreme weather.
What steps are neighbours taking? What are local councils doing?
Bay of Plenty Times Weekend writer Dawn Picken explores a torrid topic that, according to scientists, will only get hotter.
It's Waitangi Day in Pilot Bay at 9am and the sun is already blazing. Cruise ship Ovation of the Seas is docked, and passengers are streaming from the port. They board buses or set out to explore downtown the Mount. Some intrepid souls will summit Mauao today as the sun's rays intensify. The temperature is forecast to hit 27 degrees, down one degree from the day before.
Blue water shimmers as vendors with kayaks and paddle boards set up on the grass. Swimmers ply cool waters among yachts and power boats anchored in the bay. Today, like each day this week, looks to be a water day.
Ice, ice baby
Copenhagen Cones, across from Mount Hot Pools, won't open for another hour, but you'll often find queues down the footpath as customers wait for heaping scoops of frozen confections topped with cream and sauce. Around the bend on Marine Parade, Monte Gelato staffer Estera Paul told us earlier they, too, often have lines out the door.
"It gets pretty crazy," Paul says.
Tauranga's Klassic Ice distribution manager Ivan Harris says the business has been busy the past two weeks.
"Especially salt ice and normal ice. These two long weekends, I think we have a lot of people turning this weekend into a long weekend. It's pretty full-on when it stays like this," Harris says.
Harris says while it's pleasant to walk into the chiller "you come out into the heat and I don't know if you're better off".
"Our drivers are getting tired. They're doing a lot of work in the heat, which can be quite exhausting."
Cooling cows and future planning
Te Puke farmer Darryl Jensen echoes that sentiment.
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"There's no way you can be efficient and work out in the boiling heat," Jensen says.
He farms 300 head of dairy cows and says many farmers are shifting schedules to avoid the worst of scorching afternoon temperatures.
"So they're not milking when it's hot in the afternoon around three or four o'clock. Some have gone to once a day or a 16-hour milking cycle. A lot are getting up and getting work done in the cool of the day and letting us and staff have time off in the heat before re-starting in late afternoon or early evening."
Jensen says water requirements rise dramatically when temperatures soar. Whereas one cow might drink 40 litres of water per day in winter, the same bovine can drink 100 litres of water in the summer.
Grass has moisture, but he compares summer feed to Weet-Bix - it requires lots of liquid to wash it down. That means Jensen might need 12,000 litres of water per day for his herd in winter and 30,000 in summer.
Other ways to keep cows cooler, he says, are providing shade where possible. When it comes to climate change, he says farmers and horticulturists try to future-proof their businesses.
"We're at the lap of the gods where weather is concerned. We'd love to be able to dial up water, but that doesn't happen."
That is why he says farmers must have supplementary feed like silage hay, other crops and palm kernel extract.
"It might not be there forever. You've got to think about these things."
Federated Farmers national vice president Andrew Hoggard, a dairy farmer in the Manawatu, says farmers must adapt to climate change according to location.
While he says temperature rise is a long-term trend, he's seen changes.
"I've been on this farm 20 years and over that time, I've noticed our winters are getting easier to handle; we're not getting as cold in the winter and getting better grass growth," Hoggard says.
"I'm now milking some cows through winter and drying them off from mid-January through to mid-March, which makes it a little bit easier."
Hoggard says policies and procedures are important, but so is flexibility.
"You plan as much as you can and you just sort of roll with the punches and adopt your plans going forward."
The Ministry for the Environment says the agriculture sector was responsible for around 48 per cent of emissions in 2017. A Federated Farmers' survey last month showed regulation and compliance costs, especially in the environmental space, remains the single greatest concern for farmers, as they would likely impact farm production and business expenses.
Record high water use late last month triggered Tauranga City Council to issue a sprinkler ban. Residents were asked to completely stop using all sprinklers and irrigation systems until further notice. Water demand was up by 40 per cent on normal average water use.
Average usage during the year was around 41 million litres per day, however, on January 20 demand hit 58 million litres per day.
You can water gardens by hand-held hose between 5-8am, and from 7-10pm.
City waters manager Stephen Burton told the Bay of Plenty Times earlier hot and dry days meant water usage started climbing as early as November.
"The absence of rain in the foreseeable future means we now need to place a ban on the use of all sprinklers", he said.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also enacted a water ban on hand-held hosing and sprinklers in the wider Te Puke area. The Council said it would decide by yesterday whether to expand the ban. They say residents in the Central Zone (Te Puna, Minden and Ōmokoroa areas) continue to be the highest users, with reservoirs struggling to maintain a 50 per cent minimum level for daily demand for drinking water.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council Utilities Manager Kelvin Hill applauds residents' efforts so far but says they may not be effective enough.
"If this scorching weather continues and our consumption rates keep going up at the current level, we will have no option but to bring in a total ban on sprinklers and hand-held hosing," Hill says.
Lack of watering has been evident, especially in Pāpāmoa and the Mount, where grass grows in sandy soil, and lawns and parks are covered in sun-bleached brown grass.
Tauranga Lawn Mowing owner Daniel Oxenham says some areas of town like Ōtūmoetai and Welcome Bay still have green grass.
"I don't work in Pāpāmoa or the Mount; it's too dry this time of year. I'm based in the Lakes, so it's not worth the drive over there."
Niwa's fire weather page lists forests in Tauranga and Kawerau as having a 'very high' fire danger. Rotorua and Te Puke are high, and Ōpōtiki and Waihī are extreme. Nearly every locality's scrub fire danger in the Central North Island is rated 'extreme'.
A prohibited fire season has been declared for the Bay of Plenty Coast, Central Lakes, and Pumicelands.
Principal rural fire officer Steve Webb says all fire permits have been suspended in those areas, and only gas and charcoal barbecues can be used.
He says people must also use caution when operating equipment such as lawnmowers and grinders, so sparks don't start a brush fire.
Bushfires in South-eastern Australia this season have killed at least 32 people and destroyed almost 2000 homes. Nearly five million hectares have burned or are currently burning, according to an article in last week's Guardian . At least a billion animals have died.
President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor John Shine, said in a statement last month 'the scale of these bushfires is unprecedented anywhere in the world'.
Shine said in terms of hectares burnt the Australian fires were the largest to affect any of the mega diverse countries — larger than the 2019 Amazon and 2019 Californian fires.
The statement also says the country's unique biodiversity means "the impact of the fires on species extinction will be ongoing after the bushfire season".
The document on science.org.au says the combination of other factors also make this fire unprecedented in Australia's history. These include: the intensity of the fires early in Australia's fire season; current dry, warm and windy conditions; unusual fire behaviour; and the indirect and direct impact on Australia's environment, including greenhouse gas emissions and severe air pollution across population centres.
New Zealand's air quality has been affected by Australia's fires.
Bushfires lift dust and ash high up into the atmosphere. Smoke particles blow 2000km across the Tasman. Especially last month, Kiwis saw orange, hazy skies. The Guardian reported New Zealand air quality levels last month from bushfires had declined to "code orange" in several locations, classified as unhealthy for people with conditions such as asthma and other lung conditions.
Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman wrote on the organisation's website last month consistent hot temperatures and fires in the future will further restrict the ability of Australia to grow produce. He says New Zealand will likely see a reduction in imported Australian produce and a greater demand for New Zealand grown produce.
Chapman says climate change adaptation and water quality are major challenges this year.
"The message from Australia is not to delay our work and, if anything, to speed up what we are doing before we become like Australia and find it is too late. We need to take seriously Australia's warning of what may become reality in the future."
He says New Zealand can make some difference, however small, in addressing climate change.
"However, where we can make a major impact is with food production."
"Our first priority needs to be feeding New Zealand in the knowledge that imported food will become more costly and less available as countries like Australia face climate change.
"We need to become food supply self-resilient. Once we are, we can then turn our attention to what we can grow to help feed others such as Australia. To achieve these goals, we need a food supply or security plan and policy, and we need to act now."
Trends and forecasts
Record high temperatures have been toppling throughout the Bay.
Te Puke had its hottest day on record last Saturday at 33C. Whakatāne hit 36.4C Monday, breaking its previous record of 33.3C. Places where the temperature soared without breaking records on Monday included Rotorua, with 30.2C, Tauranga, at 33.2C and Kawerau, 35C.
Rotorua's highest recorded temperature was 32.2C in 2019. Tauranga's was 33.7C and Kawerau hit 37C, both in 1983.
The Ministry for the Environment website says best estimates of New Zealand temperatures are for an expected increase of about 1°C by 2040, and 2°C by 2090.
"However owing to the different emission scenarios and model climate sensitivities, the projections of future warming cover a wide range: 0.2–2.0°C by 2040 and 0.7–5.1°C by 2090."
Experts have long warned we have more to contend with than heat.
Niwa forecaster Chris Brandolino says as the planet continues to heat up due to greenhouse gas emissions, "the warming earth will load the dice and increase the probability of extreme weather events and make them more extreme".
"Temperatures will get higher, we'll get more extreme rainfall - binge rainfall," Brandolino says.
He says the West Coast is expected to see more rainfall decades from now, while the East coast will get less.
"For example, we might have extended periods of no rain for 40 days, then in a day or two, we'll get a month's worth of rain."
Metservice predicts well above average February temperatures for the North Island, except for Wellington (near average). For all North Island regions, the service predicts a dry first half of February, an increased chance of getting useful rain the second half, but still expects rainfall to be hit and miss. The West Coast, Southland and Otago could see a wetter week next week.
Bay of Plenty Regional councillors voted to declare a climate emergency last year.
Namouta Poutasi general manager - strategy and science says BOPRC is working to deliver on its first Climate Change Action Plan.
Poutasi says the focus to date has included establishing an emissions baseline to identify needed improvements and measure reductions over time; refurbishing buildings in Tauranga, Whakatāne and Rotorua and including new technologies to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency.
Poutasi says council has replaced five public network buses and four regional council cars with electric vehicles and have facilitated a bulk purchase deal for staff to buy e-bikes.
"Staff and councillors have also been taking a closer look at a range of printing and purchasing decisions we make and exploring more sustainable alternatives or sources."
She says the council has also commissioned Niwa to produce an updated climate change projections report for the region in 2019, due for release this month
"The report will help to inform our decisions as well as those of other agencies, businesses and members of the public in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change."
Council deputy chairwoman Jane Nees voted for the declaration last year but says she's been frustrated with the pace of the council's response.
"I wish we were moving faster and involving more people," Nees says.
She says climate change was the most important issue the council had dealt with.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said responding to climate change was an important issue for the city and Western Bay region.
"We are a region with significant resilience issues. We are a low-lying isthmus and our water table is increasingly rising."
Geotechnically, liquefaction was also an issue, he said.
"A lot of our income relies on our marine and land environment.
"The more we do now to preserve that environment, the better off we will be."
He wanted to see Tauranga City Council work with the Western Bay and regional council to come up with some agreed strategies.
The councils could then "mutually support each other at a high-level" to action those strategies.
"Why don't we get people within all three councils to work together on this, rather than having them work... in silos.
"A regional initiative would be better than a sub-regional initiative.
"We are all sharing the same space."
Waikato University professor Barry Barton, who teaches the school's new climate change law course, says greenhouse gas emissions involve all aspects of the economy and how we live.
"The problem is a big, complex one. For example, someone deciding to buy a new car and considering the price of fuel might be affected by the Emissions Trading Scheme, [companies importing fuel pay into the ETS] and that might affect their decisions. We also need to make sure they have good access to a reasonably-priced efficient car that doesn't cause too many emissions. We can't just rely on one tool, there are a lot of different things to do."
Waikato Law lecturer Jennifer Campion says climate change is not easy to compartmentalise for local governments.
"Last year's local government elections, we saw climate change to be an engaging issue, and particularly for our youth, they expect we will be taking action."
Campion says examples of action include how we lay out cities, whether cycle paths go to schools, as well as adjustments in the transport network.
"Local government has a lot to contribute there and a lot to do on the adaptation side, making sure we're ready for the change in climate and making sure we don't put people in harm's way from flooding or coastal vulnerability."