Cold and windy Queen's Birthday weekend ahead for much of the country

With official start of winter at the stroke of midnight, Cardrona ski field in Otago has just had a fresh dumping of snow with more forecast over the long weekend - and the cold is being felt across much of the country.

Met Service has issued a severe weather watch - warning of gale force winds for central New Zealand and significant snow about northern areas of the South Island.

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The wet, rainy and snowy conditions are likely to settle down late next month. Source: 1 NEWS

"A trough, preceded by strong northwesterlies, is expected to move onto central New Zealand from the Tasman Sea late this afternoon to evening, then cross the country during Saturday," MetService says.

"An associated low should move east across the upper South Island tonight and move to the east of the North Island late Saturday, bringing cold and strong southerlies to many parts of New Zealand. Significant snow is expected to fall about higher parts of Canterbury and the Kaikoura Ranges."

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If the snow keeps coming, skiers may be able to hit the slopes by tomorrow. Source: 1 NEWS

MetService has issued a strong wind watch for parts of the North Island on Saturday and into Sunday. The affected areas include: Hawke's Bay south of Hastings and Tararua District; Southern Whanganui, Manawatu, Kapiti-Horowhenua, Wairarapa, Wellington as well as Banks Peninsula and the Kaikoura Coast.

MetService meteorologist Peter Little says, "Temperatures over much of the South Island will remain in single digits on Saturday, with maximums of just 6 or 7 degrees forecast for Invercargill and Queenstown."

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It’s in stark contrast to recent mild weather. Source: 1 NEWS