South Island

Heavy snowfall blankets New Zealand's South Island

MetService warned heavy snow from overnight and carrying into this morning, at Central Otago, Southland and Fiordland, may disrupt travel and could damage trees and powerlines.

The cold conditions may also cause stress for livestock, MetService said on its website.

The weather agency stated snowfall may hit warning amounts above 500m in inland Dunedin and North Otago.

Fiordland, Westland south of Otira and Otago Headwaters and Canterbury Lakes and rivers are also expecting heavy rain today.

Storm's deluge begins across central NZ

MetService says former Cyclone Gita is expected to have a significant impact on much of central New Zealand over the next 24 hours.

The official forecaster said heavy rain was already falling from Taranaki southwards to the Marlborough Sounds, and was expected to spread over Buller, Nelson and the rest of Marlborough over the next few hours.

Strong winds were expected for the entire country from early this afternoon into this evening, with the potential for damaging wind gusts from Taranaki and Taihape south to Westland and Banks Peninsula, including Wellington.

Wild weather, lightning strikes hit New Zealand

The thunderstorms were working their way up the coast, beginning in Fiordland at 1am.

Newshub reports at one point lightning bolts were flashing 45 times per minute.

The West Coast is also being battered with heavy rainfall, with up to 160mm over a 36-hour period in Westland and 120mm in the Canterbury and Otago headwaters, according to MetService.

MetService has issued a severe wind warning for Otago and Canterbury as well as Wellington and the Wairarapa.

It said storms would continue to barrage the entire West Coast for the rest of the day.