More hot weather on way for South

Southern New Zealand centres sweltered in temperatures above 30C today but cooler temperatures are forecast to hit in the coming days as rain and windy weather sweeps over the country.

But the eastern regions of the South Island will see no reprieve as the heat continues to bear down, prompting a total fire ban for Otago and Southland, among other areas.

In the north today, Lower Hutt hit a sweltering 31.5 degrees, and the capital struck a balmy 27.8 degrees, which MetService meteorologist Brian Mercey called unusually high temperatures for this time of the year.

Down south Dunedin Airport recorded a high of 33.9, the fourth-highest recorded temperature for the city behind the highest of 34.6 in 2004. Alexandra hit 31.3 and Wanaka hit 30.

Mercey said the south would see temperatures in the 30s again but it may be cooler thanks to some breezes and it would become cooler still by Wednesday, beofre warming up again towards the end of the week.

The hot weather resulted in a significant drop in the flow of the Whitestone River, prompting Fish and Game Southland to rescue fish today, including trout, adult lamprey, upland bullies and long-fin eels, which were marked to be released further down the catchment, Fairfax Media reported.

Following a milder start to the week, a frontal system moved towards the country from the west bringing strengthening winds and rain to various regions over the coming days.

MetService meteorologist Tui McInnes said once a low pressure system reached the country it would spread a "front across the country bringing plenty of moisture and decent amounts of rainfall for some places".

On Wednesday western parts of both islands are expected to see rain, with Nelson, Westland and Taranaki being the wettest.

A Severe Weather Watch is in place for heavy rain for Westland and Nelson, with the possibility of more regions being added.

While it looks to be a wet week for many, eastern regions in the South Island would remain sheltered by the Southern Alps, McInnes said.

MetService's forecast shows Dunedin expecting highs in the mid to late 20s for most of the week, while Central Otago would continue to swelter in the high 20s over coming days.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand rural regional manager Mike Grant said conditions had been incredibly dry in the south, and soil moisture levels were very low.

"We've had a few millimetres of rain here and there over the past six weeks, but the grass and vegetation is still tinder dry.

"That coupled with the extremely hot weather we've been having means the fire danger is really high. We had an unprecedented run of hot weather lately, certainly for Invercargill the heat has been record breaking," Grant said.

A total fire ban remained in place for Gisborne, Horowhenua, Rangitikei and Marlborough.

The hot weather was also affecting fruit and vegetable growers, prompting a call from Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine to build more dams so growers would not have to kill off their own crops, Radio New Zealand reported.

On Thursday most of the North Island would see the rain continue and the front moves east, wet weather will begin to ease by Friday.

The frontal feature was also forecast to strengthen northerly winds as it spreads over the country, particularly about coastal areas. These winds could become strong in exposed areas.

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