Firefighters are battling fires caused by heavy winds and arcing power lines in the southern part of Marlborough.
Marlborough principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara said Marlborough and Kaikoura had been hit with rough conditions and strong norwesterly winds overnight.
There were no fire call-outs in Blenheim but Kaikoura Volunteer firefighters had been called out four times since 12.50am, he said.
The Blenheim and Awatere Rural Fire Force had been assisting Kaikoura volunteer firefighters south of Kaikoura on Inland Rd.
Three of the call-outs had been caused by arcing power lines, he said.
Kaikoura Volunteer Fire Brigade fire chief Ian Walker said the first two call-outs were to the same property on Harnetts Rd.
Embers from a fire during the day had been fanned up by the strong winds.
Another fire started on Dairy Farm Rd, south of Kaikoura, about 2.30am after power lines fell down.
Flames endangered a house but the blaze was dealt with by the volunteer fire brigade.
Firefighters were called to a fourth call-out about 7.30am to Blunts Rd, off Inland Rd.
The cause of the vegetation fire was unknown, Mr Walker said.
Two appliances from the Dairy Farm Rd call-out were sent to Blunts Rd to tackle the blaze.
The Blenheim Rural Fire Force command unit was based at Farm Rd, Kaikoura, organising the deployment of firefighters.
Kaikoura police said there were no incidents overnight and no sign of road closures.
Strong winds across the Cook Strait had caused some cancellations and delays to the ferry service.
- The Aratere sailing was cancelled this morning after delays yesterday caused the service to run behind schedule.
- The 6.25am freight sailing from Picton was delayed by an hour and is expected to arrive in Wellington at 10.25am.
- The 10am ferry sailing from Picton was cancelled
- The 2.25pm sailing is expected to leave at 3.15pm and arrive in Wellington at 6.25pm.
- The 10.25am sailing from Wellington is expected to leave at 11.25am and arrive in Picton at 2.35pm.
- The 2pm is on time and is expected to arrive in Picton at 5.10pm.
The Bluebridge has had no cancellations so far
Gusts approaching 150kmh tore through Wellington overnight, downing trees, disrupting travel, and causing powerlines to arc.
MetService meteorologist Richard Finnie said gusts reached 146kmh on the Rimutaka Hill Rd, and by 6am it was still gusting at 130kmh on the hill between Upper Hutt and Wairarapa. At Kelburn the northwest wind was gusting to 115kmh and Mt Kaukau was at 135kmh this morning.
Fierce gales will continue pounding central New Zealand today, moving into Gisborne and Hawke's Bay from this afternoon.
Heavy rain is moving up the West Coast, and is expected to reach the lower North Island, Taranaki and the central high country this evening, when winds would slowly ease over central New Zealand.
Heavy falls are expected in Waikato and Bay of Plenty tonight and Auckland early tomorrow.
"This system is just plodding. It's almost like it's got cement blocks tied to the back of it. It is taking literally from about Tuesday to Friday to make its way all the way across New Zealand," MetService spokesman Dan Corbett said.
While conditions were easing Canterbury and southern parts of the South Island, they remained very wet and windy across central parts of the country, he told Radio NZ.
The strongest winds had been across Otago yesterday afternoon and moved to Canterbury last night. "They're now moving to Marlborough and across much of the Cook Strait region."
Rain warnings remained in place for parts of the West Coast, with the main area of rain moving north from Fiordland to Westland. Rain intensities could reach 40mm an hour, and totals could exceed 300mm.
"The main pipeline of rain is now moving in across Westland, and through the day it shifts further north, going up towards Buller," Corbett told Radio New Zealand.
A considerable amount of the rain would also be falling east of the main divide, "so even those eastward flowing rivers, they'll be flowing pretty well."
"We push all of that slowly north into the North Island as we finish off Wednesday and get into Thursday," Corbett said.
Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas said 72 homes were without power from about 7am today at Horokiwi - a small community inland from the Petone to Ngauranga stretch of State Highway 2.
The cause was not immediately known.
A crash on the highway was delaying the effort to fix the problem.
It was hoped it would be fixed by 10am.
RECORD WINDS LASH SOUTH
The storm-force northwest winds - a record 251.9kmh was recorded on the Mt Hutt summit - sparked countless scrub fires, uprooted trees, snapped power poles, tore roofs off buildings and overturned a truck, while a lightning strike set a West Coast house ablaze yesterday afternoon.
Vast areas of Canterbury were still without power early this morning, including in Christchurch, Rangiora, Rolleston and Dunsandel, with outages affecting upto 28,000 people.
Leeston woman Cheryl Allsopp said she was "devastated" that the storm had flipped over her caravan.
"This has been our home while we are building. We have lost everything in this storm."
She said their new home would not be ready until December, so they hoped their insurance company would be able to help in the meantime.
The Fire Service received about 900 emergency calls in the 11 hours from 6pm yesterday to 5am today, and 1200 calls over a 24-hour period.
A spokesman said four helicopters had been dispatched at 7am to begin fighting a large bush fire about four kilometres west of Amberley.
The helicopters had been on stand-by until daybreak because ongoing lightning strikes made flying too dangerous earlier.
The spokesman said the Fire Service was still receiving "multiple calls" this morning as people woke up and saw broken glass and damaged roofs across the region.
Firefighters had been "incredibly busy", dealing with "lots of large fires", overnight, including fires at several barns and sheds that threatened nearby homes.
"The crews would get the fires out, then they had to rush out to new areas."
Firefighters planned to recheck the sites of serious fires today.
"The crews are strung out and tired, but we'll get there."
Most fires were caused by downed power lines.
Another Fire Service spokeswoman, Karlum Lattimore, said all volunteer and off-duty staff were called in after the service was inundated with fire callouts.
There were so many callouts they had to prioritise those that threatened properties.
Nine fire engines attended the Sandy Knolls Rd, West Melton fire, thought to have started from a hedge about 8pm, which was still blazing at 10pm.
About the same time, Lincoln firefighters were at a Leeston hay barn, where silage pits were on fire. The Leeston brigade was fighting a blaze at the showgrounds. In Southbridge, six fire engines were sent to a late-night cow-shed fire.
In Ashburton, police evacuated homes on Jacksons Rd as eight fire engines battled a nearby blaze that started about 7pm. In nearby Barrhill, more fire engines went to a wood merchant's home, whose firewood had gone up in flames.
Problems had already peaked around 8pm, when a house fire was reported in Oxford, a shed caught fire in Kaiapoi, a blaze started in the Selwyn River bed, and a tree fell on a fire engine near Dunsandel.
There were also many reports of roofs being torn of houses and trees falling on the road across Canterbury and South Canterbury, Lattimore said. Firefighters struggled to keep up as the winds re-ignited fires they had already put out.
"They're everywhere - Cave, Ashburton, Timaru, Rakaia, Mayfield, Sheffield ... this is a severe event," a Fire Service spokesman said about 5pm.
The NZ Transport Agency said several stretches of highway in the South Island were closed due to winds, fallen trees and power lines, flooding or snow.
Caution was needed on many other highways as a result of high winds or flooding, or debris flung on to roads, and police warned motorists to expect delays in may parts of Canterbury.
Power was lost to The Press printing plant in Christchurch early today affecting production of the south Island's biggest newspaper. The outage meant printing started very late reducing the paper's ability to get copies to areas outside Christchurch. Debris on the road had also made deliveries difficult within the city.
A motorist crashed into a fallen tree near Leeston this morning.
The crash happened near the intersection of Leeston and Bethels roads about 6.10am.
An ambulance spokesman said the driver was not injured.
"Major dust storms" had hit southern parts of Canterbury.
Trains were stopped on the Midland Line at Sheffield due to a fire on the railway tracks and poor visibility.
Roads and highways were blocked at various times of the day due to felled trees and powerlines.
Dunsandel brigade chief Ian Chatterton said things were "absolutely frantic".
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, which was being pelted by heavy rain and thunderstorms for much of the day, fire crews were called to a Fox Glacier property set alight by a lightning strike.
Luckily it was a "small fire" and had been extinguished when they arrived, a Fire Service spokesman said.
By 11pm, 28,000 customers around Canterbury had lost power, Orion spokesman Stuart Kilduff said. Line faults had mostly been centred in rural Canterbury.
Orion crews would be unable to fix the problems until at least today.
- The Marlborough Express