Severe winds, strong rain and the first dusting of snow on Mt Ruapehu are heralding cooler conditions.

The first snow of the year settled on Mt Ruapehu overnight on Tuesday, following a week of lower temperatures. A light snowfall had settled at Whakapapa and Turoa bases with a decent dusting higher up.

When the season opens on July 2, people will be able to enjoy the new $7.5 million chairflift at Whakapapa ski field, which will transport 2800 people per hour compared with the old lift which took 1900 per hour from the Centennial and Rockgarden chairlifts.

Today in Hawke's Bay, westerly winds are expected to reach severe gale with gusts of 140km/h in exposed places south of Napier and the Tararua District. The wind is expected to ease this afternoon.

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MetService said winds of this strength could cause damage to trees and powerlines and make driving hazardous, especially for motorcycles and high-sided vehicles.

Metservice meteorologist Arno Dyason said long sunny spells were also expected today, with a high of 21C and a low overnight of 8C.

Cloud would increase tomorrow, with rain developing about the ranges about midday, and scattered falls further east at night. Northwesterlies were expected to become strong or gale in exposed places. Temperatures were expected to reach 23C and a low of 9C.

Mr Dyason said as a front moved across the country, Hawke's Bay would experience heavy rain and strong southerlies over the weekend, as well as lower temperatures into next week.

Rain was expected on Saturday with northwesterlies becoming strong or gale in exposed places, with temperatures not reaching 20C.

Some heavy falls were expected on Sunday, with winds changing to strong or gale southerlies, and a high of 16C.