Extreme weather that has hit country in the past week is set to continue with stormy wet conditions expected in the South Island from today.

Last week's scorching weather was near the hottest on record in parts of the south, where temperatures in the mid-30s were recorded in several areas including Dunedin, Mosgiel, Hanmer Springs and Murchison, said Weatherwatch.co.nz.

The heat drifted across the Tasman where Australians have been experiencing record highs.

But the scorching conditions will make way for heavy rain and gales this week, as a west to southwest flow spreads across the country, said the MetService.


The front would bring rain, stronger winds and gales to central parts of the country and exposed parts of Northland and Auckland before moving to the South Island, MetService spokesman Ramon Oosterkamp said.

By tomorrow, the heavy rain was expected in the west as well as gale or severe gale northwesters in the east.

"The western and alpine areas of the South Island may see another period of heavy rain, which may pose problems to those areas affected by the wet weather of last week," he said.

Heavy rain in Westland, Nelson and Buller last week washed away a bridge and caused holiday traffic mayhem.

The wild weather washed out a section of Wanganui River bridge at Harihari, south of Hokitika, on Wednesday, forcing holidaymakers to make lengthy detours.

The reconstructed bridge was reopened yesterday.

Rough seas have also affected those in the north.

Two men had to be winched from the Firth Of Thames last night after their dinghy flipped over in stormy conditions.

Members of the public raised the alarm when they spotted the pair were in trouble and emergency services were on hand as they were winched to safety to Waihihi Bay.

The men, who were wearing life jackets, were in the water for almost an hour.

In the Nelson region yesterday, a 71-year-old man was hit on the head by a dinghy picked up by high winds.

The 14-foot dinghy with an outboard motor was parked on a beach in the Abel Tasman National Park when it became airborne and hit the Takaka man.

He was flown to Nelson Hospital with potentially serious injuries.

Also yesterday, the body of a man was found hours after he was swept away at the Motu rivermouth near Opotiki.

Police said the 41-year-old local had been fishing with friends, and disappeared while attempting to cross the rivermouth.

Almost five hours after a search began, the man's relatives found his body about 150 metres from where he had gone missing.

Police reminded the public about the dangers of high water levels and stormy surf, urging people to take every safety precaution including wearing life jackets.