Heavy rain drenching the North Island is expected to ease only briefly this weekend with just enough time to catch some fresh air before the wet weather kicks in again.

A severe weather warning has been issued for the Bay of Plenty where 140mm could accumulate from this evening through to midday Sunday.

MetService has warned residents that this amount of rain could cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly and may cause surface flooding and slips, plus make driving conditions hazardous.

A heavy rain watch is in place for much of the upper North Island including Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Taranaki.

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MetService meteorologist Ravi Kandula said the current rain band moving over the North Island will clear by late morning on Sunday however, more downpours are expected again in the evening.

Wind is on the way for the lower part of the country with a strong southerly gale expected in coastal Marlborough and Banks Peninsula from midnight.

Strong southerlies will hit Wellington by Sunday evening.

Things are set to improve on Monday with fine weather expected for most places in the North Island apart from some showers lingering around the east coast.