Weather: Tasman residents feeling lucky to be alive after tornado rips through area

Four tornadoes have hit New Zealand in just the past three days - and there is a warning of more to come.

The swirling winds have brought down trees and lifted roofs, but incredibly just one person has been injured.

Since Sunday, tornadoes have ripped through parts of Auckland, Waitara, Paraparaumu, and the Tasman district.

In Upper Moutere, near Nelson, homes are still being assessed for damage.

The tornado ripped and splintered mature pine trees into kindling, obliterated an orchard, and ruined homes. 

"We were standing at the window there and we just see this funnel of cloud or wind and there was just stuff flying through the air. It was like Mary Poppins," said Māpua resident Jo Holden.

Heavy objects including roofs and trampolines also flew through the air.

"This thing is coming towards us, and it's like 'holy shit, what do we do?' But we were lucky it actually passed by us," Holden said.

"It came through with the sound of a freight train."

The tornado was so powerful it carted olive trees and roofing iron two kilometres away to Wayne Picard's lawn. He's feeling lucky to be alive.

"If it'd been another 100m this way then we probably wouldn't be here, because the trees would've caused massive damage," Picard said. "We're still in shock, actually."

The large trees almost claimed a life.

"There was a car squashed with one of those big pine trees. Luckily it missed the person inside and they were able to get out. That's pretty scary," Picard said.

Paul Manson from Fire and Emergency said there were no injuries in the area from the tornado.

"We've had some close calls with iron and bits and pieces floating around. The fact no one's got hurt as a result of this is a real credit to the resilience of the community," he said.

The community and landscape is now scarred by the tornado's 200-metre-wide and three-and-a-half-kilometre-long trail of destruction.

The tornado took a direct path through Thawley Orchard, wiping out 20 percent of their crops.

"We estimate we've lost about four hectares. There's another four or five that we're not really sure, we're still surveying," said Aaron Thawley from Thawley Orchard.

"It's devastating but it's just how it goes in this business."

But Thawley's worried it'll hit him deep in the pocket.

"We've been talking to our insurer but no, we're not 100 percent sure whether we're going to be covered on this," he said.

About 70 houses have been hit. Twenty-two of them are seriously damaged and some were red-stickered on Tuesday.

"The red stickers are because the houses are structurally unsound and they're not safe to live in. So there's a few of those. I understand they're still doing the assessments, but I'm aware of one at this stage," said Richard Kirby, Tasman District Council community group manager.

More than 3000 lightning strikes lit up the Nelson skies on Monday and almost 40,000 strikes were recorded across the country.

An active weather pattern with warm and humid air provided the power for four tornados in just three days.

"It is unusual, but it's not unheard of. We average seven to 10 moderate to strong tornadoes per year across Aotearoa New Zealand," NIWA principal scientist Chris Brandolino told AM.

So Mother Nature might have a few more in store for 2023.