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Rising river levels are expected to isolate several settlements north of Gisborne this evening, but homes and properties should not be affected, Civil Defence says.

Up to 80 people would be evacuated from settlements north of Tolaga Bay tonight as the Hikuwai River got close to flooding its banks.

This afternoon, the river had reached 11.4 metres, and would overflow at 12 metres.

Nine residents were evacuated from Mangatuna, 65km northeast of Gisborne, earlier today while Anaura Bay, Nuhiti and Kaiaua were cut off by flooding.

The area received 90mm of rain in the 12 hours to 3pm and 50mm more was expected tonight.

In Te Karaka, 32km northwest of Gisborne, several dozen locals had evacuated but most of the 500 residents were likely to stay in their homes, despite knowing the township could become isolated, the Gisborne District Council said.

The Waipaoa River was predicted to reach 9.5 metres tonight and was expected to cut off the two access roads into the township later this evening.

State Highway 2 at Te Karaka remained open while State Highway 35 between Te Araroa and Gisborne was open only to emergency traffic, and closed between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay.

About 100 residents at Wharekaka, Paroa and the Mangaheia Flats were being evacuated.

The Taruheru River, which ran through Gisborne city, had overflowed but was not a threat to the city, although one family living next to the river had been evacuated.

The Waimata River was sitting at just under seven metres tonight and could affect around 40 homes if it reached 10 metres.

Gisborne police area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama urged people to stay at home and not to go sightseeing.

Civil Defence was monitoring river levels and road closures and had not declared an emergency at this stage.

Gisborne District Civil Defence controller John Davies told Radio New Zealand there was no danger to residents or properties in Te Karaka and Tolaga Bay from the rising river levels.

He said there were a number of slips and trees on the roads in Te Karaka and recommended people didn't drive in the area except in an emergency.

In Tolaga Bay, he said the rain could cause land to become a "pond", making it difficult to travel and blocking sewers.

The rain was expected to continue over the next 12 hours before easing up mid-morning tomorrow.

More information on road closures and river levels was available on the Gisborne District Council website