A brief summary of climate and hydrological conditions in the region.

This service is regularly updated during periods in which closer monitoring is required (regardless of time of the year), in recognition that there is potential for dry spells, or irregular hydrological recharging. It does not define an official council position on drought or drought declaration. Outside of dry periods, less frequent updates synchronise with our latest seasonal outlooks.

Updated 5 June 2024

Next update due when there is a significant change of conditions or a new seasonal outlook.


The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event is now over. This has been a highly unusual, or ‘non-traditional’ event. The weather patterns throughout the warm season were mixed with alternating flows and thunderstorms, which are uncommon in El Niño years. Due to this recurring feature, a more severe and widespread dryness event was prevented, even though drought was declared in the Wairarapa. From the figure below, we can see that this year’s El Niño resembled most closely the 1982/1983 event, but overall was not as severe as the strongest historical events.

Maps of summer El Niño impacts in the Wellington Region for the years 1972/73, 1982/83, 1997/98, and 2023/24
Summer El Niño impacts in the Wellington Region for the top three strongest historic events over the last century, compared against the last summer. Credits: NIWA and GWRC
View the full image

Current situation

After a dry summer and autumn, soil moisture levels are still below average and slowly recovering as we head into the cold season. The eastern Wairarapa was one of the driest spots, with total accumulations only between 20 and 40% of the seasonal average. This pattern has remained mostly unchanged until April. However, thanks to a significant easterly event in the second half of May, the driest parts of the Wairarapa have received above average rainfall for the first time since November 2023.  The national drought index, which is updated daily (see below), is indicating that most of the region remains on a slow recovery path towards neutral conditions (i.e., no longer classed as dry).

Meteorological outlook

International climate models are predicting that a reversal back to La Niña will likely take place by early spring. However, there are no firm indicators at present to suggest that we will have a very impactful event of the same magnitude seen years ago, which culminated in the floods associated with cyclone Gabrielle. While we will need to continue to monitor the evolution of the climate drivers, for now most climate models agree that a predominant westerly regime will prevail throughout winter, possibly with above average rainfall west of the ranges and below average east of the ranges.

Climate change

The ‘normal’ longer-term water balance is becoming increasingly hard to maintain quite possibly due to climate change influences, and increased high frequency climate variability, with more unreliable weather patterns. Droughts are expected to become more severe and frequent in the Wellington region, particularly in the Wairarapa. Even if international climate policy efforts were to successfully contain global warming under 1.5-2 degrees (the Paris Agreement’s ambition), it is important that we enhance our water resilience and be prepared for more unreliable climate patterns with both extreme dry and extreme wet periods. We note that the warming of the land also means that evapotranspiration will greatly increase, so the soil will likely need more ongoing rain to maintain ideal moisture levels, compared to what it has needed in the past.

View the latest national drought index state

View the national drought forecasting dashboard

View the latest seasonal report:

Browse the data

Anomaly Maps

How different has recent rainfall/soil moisture been compared with the same time in previous years?

30 Day Rainfall Anomaly

90 Day Rainfall Anomaly

1 Day Soil Moisture Anomaly

30 Day Soil Moisture Anomaly


Site-specific graphs

Cumulative rainfall/soil moisture totals for indicator sites compared with historical averages and other recent years. 
Area Rainfall Soil Moisture
Kapiti Coast (lowland) Otaki at Depot  
Kapiti Coast (high altitude) Penn Creek at McIntosh  
Porirua Horokiri Stream at Battle Hill  
Wellington City Kaiwharawhara Stream at Karori Reservoir  
Hutt Valley (upper catchment) Hutt River at Kaitoke Headworks  
Upper Hutt Upper Hutt at Savage Park Upper Hutt at Savage Park AQ
Wainuiomata Wanuiomata River at Wainui Reservoir  
Wairarapa (high altitude) Waingawa River at Angle Knob  
Wairarapa Valley (north) Kopuaranga River at Mauriceville  
Wairarapa Valley (Masterton) Ruamahanga River at Wairarapa College Wairarapa College AQ
Wairarapa Valley (south) Tauherenikau River at Racecourse Tauherenikau River at Racecourse
Wairarapa (north-eastern hills) Whareama River at Tanawa Hut Whareama River at Tanawa Hut
Wairarapa (south-eastern hills) Waikoukou at Longbush Waikoukou at Longbush
Updated June 14, 2024 at 11:13 AM

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