Weather: Heavy downpours, cold winds heading for New Zealand this weekend

The upper North Island is bracing for more wild weather with thunderstorms, heavy downpours, and strong wind gusts to kick the weekend off.

An "unstable airmass" is expected to affect much of Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel, north Waikato, and far west Bay of Plenty from Friday night and a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued.

"Thunderstorms are likely and there is a risk that some of these could be accompanied by downpours with rainfall intensities of 25 to 35mm per hour and tornadoes with strong wind gusts," MetService says.

NIWA, meanwhile, says low pressure will bring "a dreary start" to the north and east of the country on Saturday.

"To the north, [there are] subtropical winds coming down from halfway between New Caledonia and Northland," Weather Watch meteorologist Philip Duncan said.

"So it's pretty mild stuff coming into the upper North Island, and that will spark a few heavy downpours here and there."

Duncan said on Saturday, low pressure will stretch right across the country, bringing light winds. On Sunday colder winds will blow in, likely turning rain on the west coast to snow in the mountains and on alpine passes.

MetService has described cloud cover over the country as "extensive" and says another active band of rain is due to arrive in the next 24 hours.

That's great news for the country's drought-stricken regions, but not so much for the Coromandel, which has seen some flooding across the last few days.

The forecaster says Whitianga, on the peninsula's eastern side, has received more than 400mm of rain in the last month - more than it'd got in the seven previous months combined.

The Coromandel is likely to get even more rainfall over the weekend, with MetService issuing heavy rain watches for the area, as well as Northland and the western Bay of Plenty.

"Rain and possible thunderstorms continue for north and eastern parts of the North Island as we head into the weekend," MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris says.

The South Island won't escape the bad conditions either, MetService warns, with "almost all parts" seeing some wet weather over the weekend - though Saturday looks the drier of the two.