At least a dozen families were in a welfare centre last night after one of the longest and most damaging storms in years lashed the country.
Northland was the worst hit but severe thunderstorms were due to hit Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Rotorua overnight.
The foul weather caused slips, closed roads, burst river banks and was thought to have claimed one life at Haruru in Northland.
Local resident Jordan Rivers said he felt helpless as he watched a 28-year-old woman disappear into the floodwaters.
"She got caught on a fence and hung on for about five minutes but couldn't hold on any longer, the water was too strong for anyone to help," he told TVOne.
It's believed she was swept away while trying to get back to a house from her partially submerged vehicle.
Police and fire service officers used helicopters, jetskis and inflatable boats to rescue others stranded in the floodwaters near a Haruru property where police say the occupants had been partying most of the night.
One man was plucked from a tree and another man was rescued from a shed roof.
Others had lucky escapes after a series of dramatic rescues around the country.
• A mother and her two young children had to be helped from their car after it was trapped by rising flood waters just after 2pm on the main southeastern coastal highway. A fire crew reached the stricken car and pulled the family to safety.
• A 75-year-old man and his 50kg Rottweiler were plucked to safety from a swollen stream at the rear of the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway, northwest of Auckland.
• In the northern township of Moerewa, the fire service was called to ferry a sick patient across town after floodwaters blocked an ambulance on an emergency call.
Northland was the hardest hit by the rain. Up to 128mm fell in the upper Waitangi catchment between 3pm Friday and yesterday morning.
TV3 journalist Hilary Barry was one of thousands affected, cut off from her husband and two children when flooding raged across a country road near Hikurangi.
Barry was on her way north from Auckland yesterday to join her family for a weekend break when 50cm of river water blocked the road for several hours.
"My husband Michael and the kids were a few hundred metres away on the other side of the water and we were shouting messages over to each other," Barry said. Eventually they waded through the waters.
After a week of wind and rain, it appears the worst has passed. Auckland will have a fine start to the week, says MetService. Tuesday should also be clear.
Waikato is forecast to expect similar with clear spells throughout the week. The lower half of the North Island will have a cold and showery start tomorrow. Showers will persist until Wednesday followed by a short fine spell. But more rain is expected next week.
- Additional reporting Russell Blackstock and Regan Schoultz