Street signs 'flying', roof lifts off as tornado rips through Mangawhai, north of Auckland

Mangawhai residents have reported seeing street signs and debris flying in Mangawhai as a tornado ripped through the coastal town north of Auckland.

The freak weather event is believed to have occurred not long after 4pm, and lasted only a few minutes.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) told Newshub they are in attendance at a property on Cove Rd, where a roof has lifted on a residential dwelling.

Local Hunter Tito says there was "heaps of iron and debris flying around", while building project The Fisherman's Shed reported seeing "street signs" in the air.

Local builder Rob told Magic Talk he saw the tornado "touch down" on a couple of places - but said luckily it was "pretty far away". However he said he saw a house with a partially removed roof on his drive home.

"It was nothing like the things you see in the [United] States, but it had a fair bit of power. It was enough to lift a few bits of iron," he said.

"Pretty exciting, mate. Bit of action, bit of [crazy] weather to finish the day off."

Alison Bain, a Mangawhai Landscape Supplies staffer, told Newshub the winds were so strong it "sounded like a train coming through the yard".

"We estimated that it was 1-2km away, possibly further. [It lasted] probably one to two minutes, and then it just disappeared," she said.

"We heard sirens, but we're hoping it was mainly empty farmland up the back, and nobody was hurt."

Retired resident Lorna Cuddy said she was just heading out to join her husband at Mangawhai Golf Club when she was told by her husband that a tornado had hit.

She says the weather in Mangawhai is normally "very settled, so this is unusual".

"We kind of get cyclones every now and then, but normally we're quite sheltered because we're tucked in between the Dome Valley and the Brynderwyns," she said.