Weather: Wind, snow, 10degC drop as storms sweep in this weekend

Spring is backsliding towards winter in New Zealand as bad weather slams into the country this weekend.

Rain, wind and low-level snow will chill Kiwis to the bone, with severe weather watches issued for the west and south of the South Island.

The big cool-down starts in the deep south, as a cold front drives away the high pressure system that's given us fine weather this week.

Strong winds will sweep the east coast and snow as low as 600 metres will blanket Southland and Canterbury on Sunday night. Temperatures will drop behind the front as much as 10degC compared to now.

"Next week begins with cold southerlies and snow, potentially closing the higher passes," MetService warns.

"The front moves north over the western South Island on Saturday, then a cold southerly spreads up the east on Sunday, while the front makes ground over the North Island. This will mean increasing cloud, with a spell of rain just about everywhere as the front moves up the country."

Heavy rain watches are now in force for the ranges of Buller and Westland including Mount Aspiring National Park, southern Fiordland, Southland, and the Dunedin and Clutha Districts.