"Unreal" winds near Kaikoura have tipped over a caravan and posed challenging conditions for others in the area.
The caravan crash was reported near Hapuku, about 14km north of Kaikoura, on State Highway 1 at 1.16pm today.
Fire Service spokesman Riwai Grace said damage to the caravan was "major" and it would "probably never be used again" but the people inside were fortunately as "good as gold".
MetService issued a strong wind warning for Marlborough today, with damaging gusts of up to 140 kmh in exposed places expected.
The severe northwesterlies were due to ease later today, but were still causing challenges mid-afternoon with people reportedly having trouble standing up in some places, Grace said.
"It's unreal up there."
No other wind-related incidents had been reported to firefighters so far though, he said.
Wild winds forced up to 40 families out from the community-run Havelock Motor Camp early this morning.
Manager Neville Pickering said "unbelievable" gusts hit the small Marlborough town about 4am, causing havoc for campers.
The camp was nearly full last night, but about 30 to 40 families packed up and went home between 4am and 8am because of the "pretty horrendous" conditions.
It was the fourth year in a row the camping ground had been hit by bad weather during the festive period, he said.
"It just makes it so disappointing from our point of view to see people's holidays cut short.
"We feel very said for the poor beggars. You can't blame them for packing up and going home."
About 20 hardy tenting groups remained at the site this afternoon and the weather was starting to ease, Pickering said.
"The ones that are here are very high-spirited. They're ones that keep coming back year after year, so I suppose they've seen it in good times too."
The strong winds had not caused any damage to the camping ground facilities, he said.
Campers further south were not hit as hard by the severe weather conditions.
Kaikoura Top 10 holiday park duty manager Jill Taylor said it had been "very windy" in the area today, but the weather was beginning to ease off this afternoon.
The camp was "full to bursting" over the new year period and the wild weather had not been bothering campers.
"They're still having a good time . . . everyone's smiling," she said.
Lee Boot, of Kaikoura's Alpine Pacific Holiday Park, said there had been some "big gusts", but campers were "all doing very well".
"I don't think it's been that bad; we've had worse."
WILD WINDS CUT POWER
Fallen trees and branches cut power to about 600 homes in the Selwyn district today.
About 395 Orion customers in Halswell and Prebbleton lost power for an hour this afternoon after winds blew vegetation onto powerlines, while another 110 lost power around Lincoln and Leeston area for up to three hours.
Wild winds also cut power at noon to 101 homes around Coalgate, Sheffield and Springfield for just under an hour.
An Alpine Energy spokeswoman said power was out to all of Waimate and they were hoping to have it back on by 4pm today.
It was not known how many people were affected by the outage.
BLUSTERY CONDITIONS TO EASE FOR WEEKEND
People in Christchurch should head to the beach or local park for a picnic this weekend, according to a meteorologist.
MetService weather forecaster Dan Corbett said Christchuch would have a a fine weekend with a high of 22 degrees C tomorrow and Sunday reaching the "mid-twenties".
Winds of up to 140kmh had been recorded in the Marlborough Sounds and up to 120kmh at Mount Hutt today.
Corbett said the winds that had wrecked havoc in the South Island today, would ease back tonight.
However, strong winds of up to 100kmh are expected in the middle of the Cook Strait tomorrow and in parts of Marlborough tomorrow night.
Corbett suggested this weekend and next Monday would be ideal picnic or beach days in Canterbury as the by the middle of next week temperatures were likely to drop below 20 degrees C.
Lifeguards were preparing for a busy weekend ahead of the fine-weather forecasts.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand Programmes & Services Manager Scotty Roberts said people had started flocking to all of Canterbury's beaches, particularly Taylors Mistake and Sumner, during the past couple of days as the weather heated up.
Roberts said more lifeguards were on duty to cope with the increasing crowds.
"We just want everyone to slip, slop and slap," he said.
"We're hopefully seeing the start of summer."
Roberts said people should always listen to lifeguards and swim between the flags as sometimes there were rips that were not always obvious.
- The Press