Weather: Snow falls in parts of the south, 1200 lightning strikes overnight as wintry conditions lash New Zealand

It's been a chilly start to the day for some parts of the South Island, with snow falling in many regions and around 1200 lightning strikes recorded over New Zealand.

A MetService spokesperson told Newshub light snow has fallen in Southland, Otago, and parts of the Canterbury region.

Clinton in Southland has woken to a snow flurry at about 250 meters, while there are also reports of light snow at Queenstown Airport.

"Snow on the Crown Range Rd this morning," said MetService. "Furthermore, southwesterly winds may approach severe gale in exposed places for the lower South Island from later tomorrow morning into the evening," the forecaster said in a statement.

The Wellington region was battered by strong winds in the early hours of Tuesday. Fire and Emergency New Zealand was called at 5:10am to reports two houses were damaged, but a spokesperson told Newshub it was not serious.

Te Horo resident Liz Koh said she understood there had been a tornado overnight after seeing the aftermath.

"I drove past a house this morning that had lost most of its roof," she told Newshub. "There was an army of workmen there trying to help."

About 1200 lightning strikes were recorded over New Zealand overnight, MetService said. WeatherWatch warns the rest of Tuesday is set to be cold and unsettled as the front moves north.

Invercargill on Tuesday morning.
Invercargill on Tuesday morning. Photo credit: Supplied

"A cold front pushes over the North Island this morning then off to the northeast, in its wake is a strong cold southwesterly airflow," WeatherWatch's Tuesday forecast said. 

"Most regions see rain or showers at some point today, western regions and the far south get the wettest weather. Some snow about the ranges of the South Island to possibly as low as 300m for a time this morning about the far south."