Alert in South Island as 'worst storm' hits NZ

New Zealand was bracing on Thursday for a storm that meteorologists warned could be the worst for nearly 50 years, with extreme weather alerts across the entire North Island.

It's due to make landfall on the North Island later - with winds of more than 144 kilometres an hour.

Stuart-Black urged people to try to delay any non-essential travel for today because of the need to do repairs on roads and to be careful of flooding and slips over Easter.

The storm was expected to move south overnight on Thursday, reaching the capital, Wellington, on Friday morning.

Some local residents in New Zealand's Western Bay of Plenty were choosing to evacuate their homes on April 13, the New Zealand Herald said, as Cyclone Cook swept through.

Other weather warnings are in place across the North Island, including for the cities of Auckland and Wellington.

Forecasters have been warning of 5m (16ft) waves, storm surges and 150km/h (90mph) winds.

"The worst is over", meteorologist John Crouch at the official Metservice said just before dawn as over 100 people who had sought shelter at a Whakatane evacuation centre began to return home in the Bay of Plenty region.

A landslide caused by rains from Cyclone Debbie is shoveled off a main road between Napier and Taupo in New Zealand.

"We are expecting major impacts for Coromandel and the Western Bay of Plenty with hazardous driving conditions".

The weather has also disrupted flights across the country, with Air New Zealand suspending all flights in and out of Tauranga.

MetService's Chris Noble said Cyclone Cook tracked slightly further east than earlier expected, which meant eastern Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay were worst affected.

Cyclone Debbie hit Australia at the end of March, before its remnants moved towards New Zealand.

New Zealand's Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, suggested all New Zealanders stay home "all cosy watching TV or Netflix".

  • Salvatore Jensen