Grant Robertson urges Kiwis to 'stay safe' as gale-force winds off the charts, heavy rain incoming

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is urging Kiwis to "stay safe" over the weekend with severe weather expected to batter New Zealand.

Severe gales hammered the lower North Island on Friday, with WeatherWatch reporting the "hurricane-force gusts" averaged over 120km/h for a time.

Wind speeds in the Wairarapa were particularly high - 160 to 180km/h - which were so high they didn't fit on WeatherWatch's charts, which only went as high as 140km/h.

"Winds today are actually going off the key on our map," WeatherWatch said.

During the 1pm COVID-19 update, Robertson said the severe weather is already making an impact.

"There has been damage, as you will have seen reported, in Canterbury and Otago and the Wairarapa, including down trees and some power outages. 

"There were fires in Otago, Hurunui and Waimakariri and these have been managed by FENZ [Fire and Emergency NZ]. The largest fire was at Glentui with nine appliances attending."

FENZ confirmed crews had responded to multiple fires overnight across Canterbury and Dunedin caused by the gale force winds. There were also reports of fallen trees and debris blocking roads.

The wild weather is expected to continue over the weekend and Metservice has already issued over a dozen weather watches and warnings.

"A front over the South Island continues tracking northwards today, preceded by heavy rain for western areas and severe northwest gales for many exposed parts of central New Zealand," Metservice said.

"Another front is expected to bring significant rainfall to western parts of the lower South Island on Sunday and early Monday and possible severe gales for eastern areas of the South Island."

They warned the Heavy Rain Watches will likely be upgraded to warnings in the coming days.

Robertson asked Kiwis to: "please stay safe over the weekend".

The following watches and warnings are in place:

North Island

Strong Wind Watch

  • Taihape and Hawke's Bay - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 10:00pm 

Strong Wind Warning

  • Wairarapa including the Tararua District - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 9:00pm 
  • Wellington - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 7:00pm 

South Island

Road Snowfall Warning

  • Lewis Pass (SH7) - Fri 10 Sep 7:00pm - Sat 11 Sep 2:00am 
  • Lindis Pass (SH8) - Fri 10 Sep 2:00pm - 9:00pm 
  • Crown Range Road - Fri 10 Sep 11:00am - 8:00pm 
  • Milford Road (SH94) - Fri 10 Sep 11:00am - Sat 11 Sep 1:00am

Strong Wind Warning

  • Marlborough - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 5:00pm 
  • Canterbury High Country from the Rangitata River northwards - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 1:00pm
  • Canterbury Plains from the Rangitata River northwards - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 1:00pm

Heavy Rain Watch

  • The Ranges of both Buller and Westland north of Otira - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 8:00pm 
  • The Headwaters of the Canterbury Lakes and Rivers north of Arthurs Pass to Lewis Pass - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am -  4:00pm 
  • The Ranges of Westland south of Fox Glacier - Sun 12 Sep 6:00am - Mon 13 Sep 6:00am 
  • The Headwaters of the Otago Lakes And Rivers - Sun 12 Sep 1:00pm - Mon 13 Sep 5:00am 
  • Fiordland -  Sun 12 Sep 6:00am - Mon 13 Sep 4:00am

Strong Wind Watch

  • Nelson west of Motueka - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 3:00pm 
  • Christchurch including Banks Peninsula -  Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 12:00pm

Heavy Rain Warning

  • The Ranges of Westland from Fox Glacier northwards - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 1:00pm
  • The Headwaters of the Canterbury Lakes and Rivers about and south of Arthurs Pass - Fri 10 Sep 10:00am - 1:00pm