All heavy rain and severe gale warnings have been lifted up and down the country as New Zealand dries off and cleans up from a vicious storm.

Wild weather yesterday grounded planes, caused a land slip which cut off Milford and left 700 cruise ship passengers stranded in Akaroa.

MetService forecaster Gerard Barrow said the adverse weather had now eased over the country.

"It's quite fine now over the South Island, and the winds are quite light there at the moment.''


And in the North Island a few showers were moving across in a brisk south to south-west flow "but there's really nothing significant going on''.

A front was expected to move over the South Island tonight, bringing rain and snow showers to 500 metres in the deep south, but it was not expected to be severe.

In Canterbury yesterday, 700 mainly American and European passengers from the cruise ship Sea Princess were forced to stay in hotels after severe winds made it too dangerous for them to reboard their cruise.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism spokeswoman Caroline Blanchfield said the Akaroa community had rallied to help the stranded passengers, who were put up in Lyttelton and Christchurch hotels. Some stayed in people's homes because there weren't enough hotel beds, Radio New Zealand reported.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman said about 2pm today the passengers began to reboard the cruise ship. They were meant to board at 9am today, but rough weather delayed it until this afternoon.

Meanwhile, it was expected to take several days to reopen the Milford Road after boulders, some weighing up to 200 tonnes, blocked access to Milford Sound.

The New Zealand Transport Authority closed the road on Friday afternoon, due to extreme weather and the risk of avalanche activity. The slip will result in several days of closure on the road. The length of the closure will depend on how long it takes to break the large rocks apart and remove them.

Some of the large boulders are estimated to be in the vicinity of 200 tonnes and it appeared that the seal under the rocks has been damaged.