Shelter from wind and weather is a primary need for humans – and for animals and plants. Protection from extremes of weather helps them to survive and grow. Farmers often plant shelter belts – rows of trees positioned across the prevailing wind. Artificial windbreaks or clumps of native bush are also sometimes used to provide shelter for crops or animals.
New Zealand’s climate
New Zealand’s temperate climate is warm enough for grass to grow all year round, except in the most southern or high-altitude regions. Farm animals are grazed in open pasture throughout the year – unlike in Europe and North America, where domestic animals are often housed indoors during the cold winter months.
Despite its mild climate, New Zealand is windy compared with many other countries, mainly because it lies in the path of the westerly airstream that circles the southern hemisphere in the 40s latitude.
Of the main centres, Wellington has the highest average wind speed – 22 kilometres an hour. Auckland is second at 17 kilometres a hour. The strongest measured wind gust in the North Island was 248 kilometres per hour at Hawkins Hill in Wellington, in July 1962. The South Island’s strongest gust was 250 kilometres per hour, in South Canterbury in April 1970.
Shelter on early farms
On pioneer farms, after homesteads were built, one of the first priorities was to plant shelter for buildings and stock yards. Tree planting was encouraged from earliest settlement – by 1900, over 20,000 acres (8,093 hectares) of Canterbury alone had been planted in shelter belts.