Thunderstorms and heavy rain as NZ warned to get ready for Gita

It's been a wet morning for Canterbury, with heavy rain in the west coast between Westport and Haast, as well as the Canterbury High Country.

MetService forecasts severe thunderstorms with frequent lightning, and downpours of up to 40 millimetres of rain per hour which may cause flooding.

It said the heavy rain and thunderstorm activity should ease south of Hokitika late morning, and between Hokitika and Westport by about 2pm this afternoon.

MetService has predicted the rest of the weekend to be fairly nice.

However it won't be nice for long as Cyclone Gita is expected to make its way to New Zealand early next week.

MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths told Checkpoint last night that Gita is still tracking west but is expected to start tracking south today towards New Zealand, and looks likely to hit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ms Griffiths said she is not sure where it will make landfall yet but will have a better idea by tomorrow.

Although she said there is a 60-70 percent chance it will make landfall somewhere in the upper North Island.

"New Plymouth to Auckland is the current hotspot for landfall," she said.

Ms Griffiths said she is concerned about the wind the storm will bring.

"We could see 150 km/h gusts easily, which is huge."

She also said the lower North Island and top of the South Island could see a lot of rainfall.

Ms Griffiths said MetService will know more tomorrow but is warning New Zealanders to be prepared.

She said use the weekend to tie stuff down, get stuff inside and be ready.

A maximum alert remains in force for New Caledonia's Isle of Pines as Cyclone Gita is gradually passing south of the island.

Forecasters said the system is still buffeting the area with wind gusts over 100 kilometres an hour, and heavy rain.

The now category three cyclone has caused havoc in the Pacific, destroying house, flooding homes and businesses knocking out communications in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji islands.