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Surprisingly, the hottest spots were not in Central Otago but on the coast.
A MetService spokeswoman said the highest temperature recorded in Otago and Southland was 33.8degC in Dunedin City, between 4pm and 5pm.
The city was less than half a degree off beating the January record of 34.2degC, set in 2018, and less than a degree off the record of 34.5degC, from December 2015.
The Taieri reached 32.1degC between 4pm and 5pm, and Oamaru also scorched, recording 32.5degC at the airport and 30.7degC in the township about 6pm.
Clutha residents baked in 30.2degC.
The remainder of the southern region had highs ranging in the mid-to-high 20s.
New Zealand’s highest temperature yesterday was in Ashburton, where it reached 39.3degC between 3pm and 4pm.
The mercury remained high, well into the night and is expected to be up again today.
Fire permits have been suspended in most of the South Island given that heat and strong winds were forecast.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand response co-ordinator Colin Russell said cancelling active fire permits would reduce the potential for fires getting out of control.
"Please, avoid any spark-generating activities, like grinding and cutting metals outdoors, or using farm machinery. Even mowing the lawn could cause sparks to start an out-of-control fire," he said.