A tornado flattened an old wooden theatre, tore roofs off houses and shattered windows as it ripped through a small West Coast settlement overnight.

The twister struck the towns of Hector and Ngakawau on the Ngakawau River mouth, about 30km up the coast from Westport, about 12.30am.

Deputy fire chief Graham Gilbert said the 50m-wide twister caused "quite a bit of damage'' as it travelled about 800m up the gorge.

He said the tornado "completely flattened'' the old theatre, which was quite a large wooden building.


"It knocked over the old picture theatre, which was being used for storage. Part of the iron that came off went up to another property and it was all tangled amongst the trees. It caused the power to go off,'' he said.

"A couple of houses down, there was a chimney that fell over onto a car port and smashed that, and some of the iron scattered about 150m down the road. There's a few trees down.''

The tornado also knocked out the side of a garage and lifted parts of two roofs. The roofing iron shattered windows when it blew into houses across the road.

Mr Gilbert said the local volunteer fire brigade did not have to attend because people in the small community were "fairly resilient''.

Most were getting on with making their own properties safe, while some had called in contractors from Westport.

"Most of the properties, the owners have got their own stuff sorted out to repair it so we didn't have to go and do anything about it. But it's created quite a bit off damage.''

Mr Gilbert said a few twisters had gone through the towns in the recent years.

"We've had two or three of them go through there.''


Power was restored this morning.