Get the raincoats ready! Cyclone Hola barreling towards Northland bringing torrential rain and high winds - BOP, Coromandel and Auckland also set to be hit

Severe weather warnings and watches are in place for the northeast of the North Island as Cyclone Hola skirts the top of the country tonight.

MetService says Hola will bring severe gale force winds and heavy rain to northern and eastern areas of the North Island during Monday and the early hours of Tuesday.

It could cause coastal inundation for eastern areas from Northland to western Bay of Plenty including Gisborne as well. 

The heaviest rain is expected in Northland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.

Auckland may also feel the effects.

Rain accumulations of as much as 150mm and wind gusts of up to 130km/h are forecast for eastern regions from Northland to northern Hawke's Bay.

Gale southeasterlies are expected to develop from early Monday morning, then changing southwesterly during the afternoon and evening. 

The strongest winds are expected in Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.

"The heavy rain could bring some slips, it could bring some localised flooding. And with those stronger winds we could find it makes it a lot more hazardous for driving as well," MetService meteorologist John Law told 1 NEWS tonight.

Forecasters have issued severe weather warnings and watches for the northeast of the North Island. Source: 1 NEWS

"So it's always worth being prepared for that severe weather," he said.

"For the northern half of the country, a pretty unsettled start to the week."

Cyclone Hola was a Category 2 system on Sunday morning and described as "compact but fast moving". 

Heavy rain could cause temporary flooding, and rivers to rise rapidly, while strong winds have the potential to cause damage to powerlines and unsecured items, MetService warns. 

Heavy sea swell is also expected over the eastern coastline from Northland through to Gisborne on Monday. Strong onshore winds will also add to the wave heights for Coromandel Peninsula and Gisborne. 

WeatherWatch said the storm runs parallel to a line that runs from Northland to Coromandel Peninsula towards East Cape. 

"The East Cape has the highest chance of the centre coming in," it said.

"At the moment a direct landfall in New Zealand (when the very centre crosses land) looks less likely - but is very close in the current modelling."

The storm surge with Hola is significant with current wave heights of nine metres at sea, the forecaster said.

WeatherWatch said the centre should be a few hundred kilometres north of Northland by midnight Sunday, with the storm tracking from the north west to the south east. 

NIWA's regional modelling indicated that Cyclone Hola's strongest wind gusts will remain offshore on Monday. 

Gusts could exceed 70 km/h in east coastal Northland, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel, coastal Bay of Plenty and the Gisborne ranges as Hola passes offshore, NIWA said.

The cyclone hit New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands on Saturday, having earlier caused extensive damage and at least one death in Vanuatu.