Nelson - in the north of New Zealand’s South Island - has reclaimed its title as the country’s sunshine capital having recorded more golden rays in 2009 than any other town.
Official sunshine figures from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) show Nelson has clocked up 2570.7 sunshine hours during the past 12 months.
The recording is 30 hours ahead of the nearest contender Tauranga - on the North Island’s east coast - which recorded 2539.9 hours.
Nelson, one of the host regions for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, out-did arch-rival Blenheim, in the neighbouring Marlborough region, which had 2477.2 hours - coming in at third place. Blenheim was the 2008 title-holder.
Other hot contenders for the title were Kaitaia (in northern New Zealand), Gisborne (on the North Island east coast), and Lake Tekapo (in the southern lakes region of the South Island).
The official figures for all centres were released by Niwa today (7.01.10).
Nelson weather consultant John Mathieson, who records the daily sunshine hours for Niwa at Nelson airport, said all data had been perused by the research institute to confirm the win.
He said Nelson was about 40 hours ahead at the start of December, but then had five days with almost no sunshine, giving Tauranga a chance to edge ahead. However, with Nelson holding a decisive lead on 31 December, Tauranga could not win.
New Zealand’s sunshine crown is a hotly contested annual title with the main contenders in regions the spread from north to south.
The vagaries of an island climate mean that the result is never a foregone conclusion.
In 2008, the small North Island town of Whakatane claimed to have beaten Blenheim, but Niwa test results showed that the town's recorder was making faulty measurements. Because the problem was not fixed until 2009, it is understood that Whakatane's figures will be considered invalid.
Nelson Tasman Tourism international marketing manager Astrid Fisher said Nelson's win was great news.
"It means we were able to provide visitors to Nelson with more sunny weather than any other region in New Zealand, contributing to a better holiday experience. It also means that we can confidently continue to claim the most sunshine hours in New Zealand when marketing the region."
Nelson Mayor Kerry Marshall said he was also thrilled.
"We've re-entered our rightful place as the sunniest place in New Zealand. There's never been any doubt, but occasionally we share it around the odd other centre around the country," Marshall said.
"People always talk about 'sunny Nelson'. We're the solar city, and this just endorses the fact that it's the best place."
Pipfruit New Zealand chairman Ian Palmer, from Upper Moutere, said it showed that Nelson was a good place to live and a great place to grow fruit.
Nelson and Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growers enjoyed a bit of rivalry, so Nelson growers were pleased to be ahead of Tauranga, Palmer said.
Nelson, in the northern South Island, is home to many of New Zealand’s best artists and craftspeople, including traditional and contemporary Māori artists.
Artistic works are often inspired by the region’s luscious coastal, forest and valley landscapes. Food, wine and some of New Zealand’s finest walking tracks are also part of the Nelson experience.