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NIWA’s new free data policy

From this month, NIWA is making access to our nationally significant databases free over the web. The initiative covers archived data on climate, lake level, river flow, sea level, water quality, and freshwater fish from NIWA, the MetService, and several other contributing agencies.

"We hope our free data policy will contribute to good natural resource planning and decision-making and encourage further scientific discovery," says Dr Barry Biggs, NIWA’s General Manager of Environmental Information.

Chris Arbuckle, Manager of Environmental Information, Environment Southland, describes this as "a fantastic and long-awaited initiative." He says, "The whole reason for gathering environmental information is to see it used, analysed, improved, and explained. The more eyes you have looking at the facts the more you learn."

How can I get climate data?

To get started, go to our climate website [] and fill in a ‘subscription’ form. This is simple and free. It tells us that you accept our standard terms and conditions for data use, and provides us with basic information to help improve the service.

Previous users of CliFlo will have the unused portion of their subscription refunded. New users of the climate database will find on-line help and a ‘dummies’ guide’ on the CliFlo home page.

There are some technical limits to the size of downloads, and you will have to update your ‘subscription’ every two years or after you’ve downloaded two million rows, whichever is sooner. If you need customised formats or non-standard data, there will be a charge for the labour involved. There will also continue to be limits on access to some data which NIWA does not own, such as climate data from the Pacific, where the data owners themselves have imposed such restrictions.

The free data policy covers archived data. If you require ‘real-time’ measurements, please contact us.

About the National Climate Database:

The database currently contains over 250 million individual measurements. Data are from 7471 climate stations, of which 2817 (38%) are currently ‘open’ (taking measurements at present). This includes 311 stations in the Pacific (restricted access – not free), and 4 stations in Antarctica.

  • 202 stations have data before 1900,
  • two stations have data before 1855,
  • earliest station: Dunedin, Princes St, opened 1 November 1852, closed 31 March 1864,
  • longest-running station: Christchurch Gardens, opened December 1864 & still open, Observations include rain, temperature (earth & air), wind, soil moisture, evaporation, solar radiation, sunshine, pressure, and humidity.

Other free data: water and freshwater fish

For these data, also available free over the web, go to:
Freshwater fish:

Weather veteran retires


Les Henderson checks the amount of rain in a glass measure for the last time.

Les Henderson checks the amount of rain in a glass measure for the last time, prior to the Blackstone Hill, Central Otago, rainfall station closing last month. The station was established in 1915, firstly just down the road at the local Blackstone Hill post office, and when that closed in 1938 it was shifted to the Henderson’s property. The gauge was read by Margaret Henderson from 1938 until 1986, when she was confined to a wheelchair and brother Les took over. He has read it ever since, travelling several kilometres from his house to the rain gauge site each time. Now in his eighties, Les has decided to semi-retire to a property on the Taieri Plains.

People like Margaret and Les Henderson have contributed beyond measure to the foundation of long -term rainfall records in New Zealand, providing fundamental data for current climate studies and the understanding of our contemporary environment. It is important that their voluntary and enduring commitment to the job is recognised and appreciated by all who use the National Climate Database.


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