Our bum­mer sum­mer

Welling­ton’s worst Jan­uary for beach-go­ers in 30 years

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - GED CANN

The sum­mer of 2017 will not be re­mem­bered fondly by the peo­ple of Welling­ton.

Re­gard­less of whether you look at sun­shine hours, wind speeds, rain­fall or tem­per­a­ture, the cap­i­tal’s sum­mer has been unar­guably the worst in years.

Beach-go­ers have par­tic­u­lar rea­son to moan, with MetSer­vice data show­ing Jan­uary had the fewest ‘‘beach days’’ of any sum­mer dat­ing back to 1987.

De­fined as days with more than eight hours of cloud­less sun­shine and a tem­per­a­ture greater than 17 de­grees Cel­sius, beach days for Welling­to­ni­ans num­bered only eight – a poor show for a month that usu­ally serves up twice that amount.

That statis­tic will not come as a com­plete shock to those in Welling­ton who ex­pe­ri­enced three sig­nif­i­cant lows in the space of a week in Jan­uary, when gale-force winds dis­rupted flights, ferry cross­ings and pub­lic trans­port.

MetSer­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Lisa Mur­ray said per­cep­tions of this sum­mer had not been helped by the pre­vi­ous two sum­mers in Welling­ton be­ing stand-outs for sun­shine.

‘‘Even look­ing at the long-term av­er­age, this hasn’t been a good sum­mer,’’ she said. ‘‘The chance of get­ting a warm day with no rain and light winds has been way lower than nor­mal.’’

Any­one brave enough to have gone to the beach in Welling­ton this sum­mer will have, more of­ten than not, been greeted by strong winds and un­usu­ally chilly sea tem­per­a­tures, Mur­ray said.

‘‘In gen­eral, over the South Is­land and lower North Is­land, they have been 2C be­low av­er­age.’’

Some Welling­ton busi­nesses that de­pend on the sun shin­ing, have not fared so well as a re­sult.

Crocodile Bikes owner Tony Christie said last year there was only a hand­ful of days in Jan­uary when his Ori­en­tal Bay bike hire busi­ness was ei­ther ex­tremely slow or closed.

This year that num­ber was about 15.

‘‘With the Welling­ton pub­lic if it’s a bad day they don’t come out, and if it’s a good day they all come out,’’ he said.

Karl Tiefen­bacher, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of gourmet ice­cream and cof­fee re­tailer Kaf­fee Eis, said earn­ings across his four stores this sum­mer had dipped by 33 per cent com­pared with last year.

‘‘It’s just a com­bi­na­tion of more rain, more wind, and last sum­mer we had a real treat. I’ve lived in Welling­ton all my life and that was one of the best ones I can re­mem­ber,’’ he said.

‘‘I think we had this fake hope that sum­mers were im­prov­ing, but we’re just back to where we were two or three years ago.’’

But it’s not all bad news on the re­tail front, pro­vided you have a roof over your head.

Welling­ton Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Agency (Wreda) chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Whe­lan said Te Papa has had one of its best Jan­uar­ies, with about 197,000 peo­ple hav­ing popped into the mu­seum for a look.

Welling­ton’s $2.3 bil­lion tourism in­dus­try, in gen­eral, had not suf­fered that badly from the shocker sum­mer, Whe­lan said. TSB Arena, Michael Fowler Cen­tre and the St James The­atre all en­joyed their best Jan­uary on record.

Vis­i­tor spend­ing in Welling­ton grew by 3 per cent in De­cem­ber, he said.

‘‘The reality is that a bit of rain and wind just doesn’t stop peo­ple com­ing to visit.’’

Other parts of the coun­try have also ben­e­fited from Welling­to­ni­ans es­cap­ing in the search of sun.

Hawke’s Bay Tourism gen­eral man­ager An­nie Dun­das said ac­com­mo­da­tion and ac­tiv­ity providers had seen a marked in­crease in clien­tele from the cap­i­tal.

‘‘We have had, pretty much, record oc­cu­pancy for Jan­uary. I think that’s a com­bi­na­tion of a num­ber of things but weather is a big con­trib­u­tor.’’

Welling­ton’s weather is not ex­pected to im­prove much ei­ther, with the same pat­terns ex­pected to con­tinue for the first two weeks of Fe­bru­ary.

The one faint glim­mer of hope is Wai­tangi week­end. To­day is ex­pected to be fine with a high of 21C, and to­mor­row could get warmer still.

The re­gion’s luck fails on Mon­day, with cloud, gale-force winds and driz­zle de­vel­op­ing in the even­ing.

‘‘I think we had this fake hope that sum­mers were im­prov­ing, but we’re just back to where we were two or three years ago.’’ Karl Tiefen­bacher, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Kaf­fee Eis ‘‘With the Welling­ton pub­lic if it’s a bad day they don’t come out, and if it’s a good day they all come out.’’ Tony Christie, owner of Crocodile Bikes ‘‘The chances of get­ting a warm day with no rain and light winds has been way lower than nor­mal.’’ Lisa Mur­ray, MetSer­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist

Is our view of this sum­mer sim­ply clouded by last year’s bril­liance, or is it truly as grim as it feels? Ged Cann, with the help of MetSer­vice and Niwa, com­pares the pre­dom­i­nant weather on each day this De­cem­ber and Jan­uary with the pre­vi­ous sea­son – and proves that the dark skies, less sun and lots of wet days of late are in­deed rain­ing on our pa­rade.

PHO­TOS: KATIE CHAP­MAN AND KEVIN STENT/FAIR­FAX NZ

Then and now: Be­low is the view of Welling­ton from the North­ern Walk­way on Fe­bru­ary 1 last year. Above is the same view on Fe­bru­ary 1 this week.

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