A violent storm of thunder, lightning and hail struck the capital yesterday afternoon, causing the wind needle near Wellington Airport to explode.

The lightning appeared to have struck the top of the needle and blown out through the middle, a Herald photographer at the scene said.

"There were bits and pieces spread 100m or more across the carpark."

The needle, or zephyrometer, which was intended to mark out the strength and direction of the wind, would need to be replaced, Wellington City Council spokesman Clayton Anderson said.


"It probably won't be able to be repaired because the fibreglass in it exploded," he said.

The kinetic sculpture, made by Phil Price, was installed in 2003.

MetService meteorologist Liz Walsh said a particularly active southerly front made its way up the South Island before squeezing through Cook Strait into Wellington. "It hit Wellington head-on."

An Air New Zealand flight was struck by lightning just before landing in Auckland yesterday.

Passenger Jen Donoghue said a "big massive ball of light" hit the left side behind the cockpit about 7.50am, accompanied by "a really loud, massive bang".

The ATR 72 turboprop was en route from Palmerston North.

Air New Zealand said it would be checked before returning to service.