fans are reeling after one of the series' longest running characters has been written out of the show.
Rachel McKenna, played by actress Angela Bloomfield, has been a regular feature on the series since 1993 - just a year after the soap opera debuted.
Last night's episode saw McKenna leave Ferndale for good - following a self-destructive episode that saw her trash a wedding before leaving her husband to "get better".
"I need to find me," she told Dr Chris Warner, before walking out. "I will love you always and forever. Good bye."
Speaking to the Herald's Weekend magazine, Bloomfield says it was a difficult decision to make and one that took a long time.
"It just felt like the right time for me and you know, it is really hard to break away from that show so it was kind of a couple of years in the planning."
And she understands that fans won't be happy about the move.
"I think they're going to be upset the same way that I was upset, and they'll grieve her the same way that I've grieved her, and then they'll watch the next night and - you know, they'll be right ... There's other characters and that's how this show exists."
Now, she's excited to focus on the next chapter of her career - whatever that may be.
"In terms of being a paid actor, I've ticked that box. So it could be time for me to be an actor that auditions and doesn't know where the next job is, because I haven't done that."
Over the years, McKenna has been involved in some of Shortland Street's biggest storylines, including a kidnapping, two marriages and several near-death experiences.
With a history of alcoholism and addiction, McKenna has a history of self-destructive behaviour, which has seen her written in and out of the series.
But while Bloomfield's latest departure is said to be permanent, producers chose not to kill her off, leaving the door open for a possible return.
Bloomfield first left the series in 1999 to pursue directing, before returning a year later.
2003 saw her bow out again, after Rachel discovered her boyfriend Chris Warner was having an affair with Donna Heke, before returning briefly in 2007.
Two years later she returned on a permanent basis and had been a central character on the series ever since.
• See the full interview with Angela Bloomfield in Saturday's Weekend Herald.