Wellington's transport networks operated largely as normal this morning as Marlborough and West Coast residents continued preparations for Cyclone Gita, due to hit later today.
Heavy rain fell in many central parts of the country, but the gale force winds and large waves will hit this afternoon as Gita makes its way down from the northwest.
Civil Defence and local councils are urging people in the West Coast, Marlborough, North Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa, Manawatu and Taranaki areas to remain vigilant, check local forecasts for their area and prepare for the storm this afternoon.
Winds are expected to gust up to 150kmh and wave heights could be up to 8m in some areas. The landfall of Gita also coincides with a high tide, which could cause some coastal inundation.
Numerous schools have been closed at the top of the South Island, the Ministry of Education says, and Civil Defence minister Kris Faafoi says he and his agency are monitoring the situation.
"We're keeping an eye on those areas we think are most likely going to be affected," Mr Faafoi said.
"We've got MOCD staff deployed to those areas, if they need assistance we'll be there for them."
"The main message is for people to be prepared as much as they possibly can be."
No state of emergency has yet been declared in the West Coast or Marlborough regions but this will be reassessed later today.
Live updates from this morning:
9.58am: MetService has tweeted infrared satellite imagery showing the approach of Gita from the northwest. Rain has preceeded the storm this morning, but the high winds and big waves are yet to come this afternoon.
9.54am: Canterbury DHB says people needing to attend hospital appointments and other outpatient services can continue to attend them today, so long as the road networks are safe. They also advised people to check their home emergency kits and confirm their emergency plans. Each person needs three litres of water per day, food supplies and an alternative means of cooking and boiling water in case of power outages.
9.13am: State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura has been closed due to the poor weather conditions, the NZTA says. Kaikoura is still accessible using Inland Route 70 and Lewis Pass can be used for Picton.
9.10am: Westland District Council says it will activate its emergency operations centre this morning at 11am. Damaging winds up to 150kmh are expected there and rain falls could be in the range of 90mm to 120mm today. The council is asking people to check on their neighbours and to secure all loose objects on their property.
9.01am: MetService reports parts of Nelson and Wellington have had more than 30mm of rain already this morning, and that "plenty more" is on the way.
8.57am: Westport locals are preparing for the impact of Gita this afternoon, with council contractors working now to secure loose objects around the town centre. Shops have sold out of bottled water, people are queueing for petrol and there has also been a run on gas barbecue sales.
8.36am: Wellington City Council says rubbish collection will proceed today, but that residents should use good judgement in determine whether to put out loose objects for collection.
8.15am: More than 40 schools and early learning centres will be closed today at the top of the South Island, the Ministry of Education reports.
The schools affected are:
Appleby School, Awahono School (Grey Valley), Barrytown School, Blaketown School, Brooklyn School (Motueka), Buller High School, Clifton Terrace School, Cobden School, Collingwood Area School, Dovedale School, Enner Glynn School, Fox Glacier School, Franz Josef Glacier School, Garin College, Granity School, Greymouth High School, Greymouth Main School, Haast School, Henley School (Nelson), Hira School, Hokitika School, Inangahua Junction School, John Paul II High School, Kaniere School, Karamea Area School, Karoro School, Kokotahi-Kowhitirangi School, Kumara School, Lake Brunner School, Matai School, Maruia School, Motueka High School, Motueka South School, Nelson Central School, Nelson College for Girls, Nelson College for Girls Prep School, Paparoa Range School, Parklands School (Motueka), Paroa School (Greymouth), Reefton Area School, Riwaka School, Ross School, Runanga School, Sacred Heart School (Reefton), South Westland Area School, St Canice's School (Westport), St Joesph's School (Nelson), St Mary's School (Hokitika), St Patrick's School (Greymouth), St Paul's School (Richmond), Tapawera Area School, Tasman Bay Christian School, Tasman School, Upper Moutere School, Waimea College, Wairau Valley School (Blenheim), Wakefield School, Westland High School, Westport North School, Westport South School and Whataroa School.
The early learning centres affected are:
Granity/Ngakawau Playcentre, Westport Kindergarten, Westport Playcentre, Reefton Early Learning Centre, Kawatiri Kids, Westport Early Learning Centre, KidsFirst Kindergarten (Greymouth), KidsFirst Kindergarten (Karoro), Active Explorers (Hokitika), Active Explorers (Nelson St), Active Explorers (Shakespeare St), Harper Park Early Learning Centre, PORSE Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast, The Children's House (Greymouth), The Children's House (Hokitika), Busy Bees, KidsFirst Glacier Country ELC, Learning Land and Rutherford St Kindergarten.
8.03am: WREMO has issued a wind warning for the Wellington region - Kapiti, Wellington and Wairarapa could see severe gale force winds gusting to 120kmh from 7pm tonight, and Wellington city could see winds gusting up to 130kmh from this evening.
7.54am: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme that Civil Defence has been doing a lot of preparation ahead of Gita's arrival, and urged people to stay informed and prepared as the storm arrives later today.
7.50am: Manawatu-Whanganui Civil Defence reports that rivers are coping with the rain well so far, but also say they will continue to monitor their levels throughout the day.
7.26am: Civil Defence Director Sarah Stuart-Black has urged people not to underestimate the storm, and to plan appropriately. She told TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme that families should be making contingencies plans in areas likely to be affected, especially around their transport plans.
7.20am: MetService has released an updated track map showing the likely path of the centre of Gita.
7.07am: The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) reminds people that very strong winds are due later today, saying objects like trampolines can become airborne and very dangerous. Gusts could reach 130kmh and outdoor furniture, toys and any other loose objects should be secured.
6.49am: Areas west of Motueka could very heavy rain today - between 150mm and 200mm. Civil Defence is urging people to prepare for the possibility to power cuts, water outages and road closures.
6.33am: AccuWeather has provided a useful graphic showing the approximate areas of impact: