All 57 schools and about 80 early learning services in the Eastern Bay of Plenty will be advised to close tomorrow as a precaution ahead of Cyclone Cook.
"Following today's decision by the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence emergency management group to expand the state of emergency, we are taking precautions and asking all 57 schools in the Whakatane, Opotiki and Kawerau districts to close," said Ministry of Education's deputy secretary of Sector Enablement and Support Katrina Casey.
"We are also asking about 80 early learning services including Kohanga and home-based care services in these areas to close tomorrow.
"We do not want to risk having students stranded at schools as a result of road conditions.
"These closures are for tomorrow only. The developing weather situation will be reassessed tomorrow afternoon to decide whether the schools and ECEs reopen on Thursday.
"The forecast heavy rain has the potential to cause further closures outside the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The best information will come from these schools and early learning services themselves as they make decisions about closures. Parents are advised to check their websites or Facebook pages or contact them directly."
A local state of emergency was declared for the Bay of Plenty on Tuesday.
Severe weather is expected in the region as Cyclone Cook bears down on New Zealand in the next 48 hours.
Bay of Plenty Civil Defence emergency management group has announced a local state of emergency for the region this afternoon.
• Councils preparing ahead of severe weather
It supersedes the state of emergency declared by the Whakatane District Council, announced last Thursday.
Up to 250mm of rain is expected to lash the Bay of Plenty in the 48 hours from midday tomorrow, the region's council said. The area is still mopping up from last week's deluge, when the remnants of ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie hit New Zealand, bringing flooding to large swathes of the North Island.
Clinton Naude, group controller for Bay of Plenty civil defence management group, said tropical Cyclone Cook created a changing environment which they would be tracking.
Naude accepted they had learned from last week's weather bomb and were themselves more prepared to pass on advice to residents.
"Again it was a different event, with the warnings that were coming it wasn't as severe as this one.
"This one we're obviously learning from what we saw in Edgecumbe and this one also being severe rainfall and given that the catchments are already saturated we are now able to get the lead in time to warn people."
He encouraged residents to self-evacuate if they felt uncomfortable or noticed the river rising.
He suggested people subscribe to the civil defence alert service.
Alongside that, if there is an emergency, the fire station alarm will continuously sound alongside emergency service vehicles.
"But stay alert and also make sure your get away kits are ready in case you have to move out of the area."
This morning Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy classified Bay of Plenty damage as a "medium-scale adverse event", meaning additional recovery assistance is available.
Measures available included recovery co-ordination, increased support through Enhanced Task Force Green teams and Bay of Plenty Rural Support Trust, as well as tax flexibility.
"The supervised Enhanced Task Force Green teams will be critical to help farmers and individual households with the clean-up," said Tolley.
Extra financial assistance was also available in the form of civil defence payments.
More than 500 applications have been received so far, most requests for personal items like clothing, bedding and food.
"In extreme events, Rural Assistance Payments can be made available to help with rural families' essential living costs."
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board issued a boil water notice for the Taneatua, Ruatoki and Rangitaiki Plains areas on Saturday.
Dairy farmers must also use boiled water for plant and silo cleaning, activate their risk management procedures and talk to their dairy company about their processes under boil water notices.
It is estimated that 70 per cent of houses in Edgecumbe have been affected by floodwaters and some may be condemned.
Some residents in flood-ravaged areas were only just allowed back into their properties yesterday, but it was limited to a few dozen homes.
Locals from 46 properties along Hydro Rd, Nikau Place, Miro Place and Konini Place were allowed back from 8am on Monday.
Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said one of the causes of the Rangitaiki River stopbank succumbing was due to the river experiencing its highest ever level.
"This is an event that's bigger than the capacity of the system and it's the highest on record for the river. It's a very large weather event."
Bonne said the regional council had spent "millions locally in the last 10 years upgrading out floodways".
He said the old wall was "decades" old and he felt a lot safer with the temporary wall in place.
"I actually think that I would rather be behind the temporary wall than the other wall ... this is a very strong part of the river now."
However, due to all of last week's rain the stopbanks were saturated so "there are weaknesses within the system and that's what they're monitoring".
He said last week's flooding event was 30 per cent greater than what had been experienced before.
He added that council will offer homeowners free building consents to get the repairs required for their homes, work which included removing silt and drying out framing.
As for when locals could return to their homes, he said it could be longer than Easter, but officials would wait and see the impact of this week's cyclone.
People can follow the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bopcivildefence or visit the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence website at www.bopcivildefence.govt.nz for information about how to get ready before an event.