NZ Local News

Bay of Plenty sees dry summer ahead

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Surf Lifesaving NZ eastern region lifesaving manager Chaz Gibbons-Campbell. Photo / Mead Norton

A dry summer with “plenty of clear skies” is most likely what’s on the cards for the Bay of Plenty this summer, a meteorologist says.

It’s “good news” for holidaymakers who can enjoy picnics and trips to the beach but hard on farmers who rely on the rain.

The predicted dry conditions come as a result of El Nino, part of a global climate cycle related to the distribution of warm water along the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

The impact on the climate included “stronger or more frequent westerly winds across the country and high-pressure systems common in the North and East”, said MetService communications meteorologist Lewis Ferris.

While there was less risk for ex-tropical cyclones than last summer, there would “likely be rainy days still in the mix” with current data suggesting a normal amount of rain for December and a little below-average amounts for January and February.

With increased fire risk, MetService advised the public to keep grass short and hot machinery away from dry grass.

Ferris said although the risk for cyclones had decreased people would need to keep an eye on the forecasts to look out for afternoon thunderstorms which could bring localised flooding.

Niwa’s principal scientist forecasting and media Chris Brandolino said there was an 80 per cent chance El Nino would have an influence through to autumn.

“We can say with some pretty good confidence we’re not expecting a summer like last summer.”

Brandolino said while each El Nino “had its own flavour”, the nature of this cycle was different to past years with New Zealand likely to see “some atypical results”.

“Typically, the water in the western Pacific becomes unusually cool but this year that is not the case,” he said.

The change in ocean temperatures would likely drive different airflow and rainfall patterns, leaving meteorologists in “uncharted waters” regarding how El Nino would unfold.

Surf Life Saving NZ’s eastern region lifesaving manager Chaz Gibbons-Campbell said the forecast predicted “winds coming in from the west” which could mean less swell for the East Coast, a relief after last season’s battering surf coming from the east.

The 2022-2023 surf life-saving season saw rescue numbers triple from the previous year.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand figures showed there were 268 rescues on beaches during the 2022 to 2023 summer patrol season. That was up from 94 the season before.

“It’s been a really challenging year,” said Gibbons-Campbell. “The tropical cyclones kept our lifeguards pretty busy when the sun did come out.”

Tauranga City Council looked to install floatation devices in recommended spots from Pilot Bay to Papamoa Beach this summer after recommendations from Surf Life Saving.

Due to the “drier than normal conditions”, Gibbons-Campbell expected “a lot of people heading to the beach to cool off”.

Bay of Plenty Federated Farmers president Brent Mountford said this year has been like “a bell curve”, with a challenging first half of the year but a surprisingly successful spring and early summer.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provisional president Brent Mountford.
Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provisional president Brent Mountford.

Mountford said Bay of Plenty farmers had reasonable moisture levels for this time of year but “we would quickly see change if we had a couple of dry and windy weeks”.

Extended periods of drought would be tough for Mountford, who would see pasture growth, production of milk and animal growth all negatively impacted.

But the extended periods of rain at the start of the year were also tough and “quality pasture was hard to control and recover – especially on the flats where there was a lot more soil damage”, Mountford said.

Looking forward to El Nino, Mountford said due to a fruitful November, he was not worried about the potential drought.

“You really start to worry if you’ve had a dry November but there’s still moisture coming through now and they’re even talking rain for Christmas Day.”

Tauranga’s Juicy Fest and One Love promoter Glenn Meikle hoped for drier conditions this year, after “extreme winds and two ex-tropical cyclones” meant cancellation for both events last summer.

Tauranga’s Juicy Fest and One Love promoter Glenn Meikle hoped for better conditions this summer. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga’s Juicy Fest and One Love promoter Glenn Meikle hoped for better conditions this summer. Photo / George Novak

After Auckland declared a State of Emergency last January, performing artists and 40 per cent of the festival goers were isolated and One Love was unable to safely deliver.

Juicy Fest, which expected as many as 15,000 people, had to cancel due to “increasing safety concerns from potentially dangerous weather conditions”.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted the extreme weather we experienced last summer,” said Meikle.

While the festival promoter was not expecting the same conditions for the 2023-2024, “we are better prepared from our experience last summer and have new systems in place”.

“We were heartbroken to have to cancel two of our events and let thousands of people down but at the end of the day we did not put anyone’s safety at risk and that is imperative,” Meikle said.

Director of Audiology Touring and Bay Dreams organiser Mitch Lowe said they had to cancel 15 festivals throughout last summer, including UB40 in Tauranga.

Director of Audiology Touring and Bay Dreams organiser Mitch Lowe. Photo / NZME
Director of Audiology Touring and Bay Dreams organiser Mitch Lowe. Photo / NZME

He hoped for better weather this summer after this year was “a very stressful time that we hope to never repeat”, said Lowe.

The cancellations weren’t the only concern, with the weeks of rain leading into the events affecting the volume of ticket sales.

While there was insurance to cover cancellations, Lowe said, “It doesn’t change the emotional aspect of our business and we spend all year creating something with the reward of delivering it.”

Harriet Laughton is a multi-media journalist based in the Bay of Plenty.

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