Gales will continue to pummel Hawke's Bay south of Hastings this morning, posing a threat to large firefighting operations in the region.

The strong winds should begin to ease as the day goes on, but the Metservice has issued a severe weather watch.

The winds may fan the flames, which have already destroyed at least one home and threatened about 20 others.

Further south gales should begin to die down after gusts of up 120km/h in parts of the Wairarapa overnight.

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However, motorists should still take care on the roads this morning as winds of that strength can damage trees and unsecured structures and down powerlines.

The Metservice has lifted heavy rain warnings for the Buller ranges, the areas around Canterbury lakes and rivers and the Tararua Range. It has also downgraded the warning for Westland to a weather watch.

The winds about Marlborough and Wellington won't be as strong as first forecast, and the Metservice lifted warnings for those regions last night.

Most of the country will get a rainy or showery day. The south will get the worst of it, where heavy rain is forecast for Fiordland and Westland.

Christchurch will be the exception. The Metservice is predicting warm, sunny, windy weather for the garden city - bad news for firefighters battling blazes in the Port Hills.

Cloudy periods are forecast for the capital this morning, followed by a fine afternoon.

Forecasts for the main centres

• Whangarei -

Cloudy, muggy day with a temperature high of 28C and rain in the afternoon

• Auckland - Patchy rain easing in the evening, westerlies will die out, 22C high

• Hamilton - Heavy rain easing to afternoon showers. Westerly winds, 21C high

• Tauranga - Occasional rain, dying out in the evening. Westerlies, 23C high

• Wellington - Cloudy periods, mainly fine afternoon. Strong northerly, 20C high

• Christchurch - Mostly sunny, northwesterly winds, 24C high

• Dunedin - Early rain, southwest wind change, mostly sunny afternoon, 18C high