Heavy rain and severe gales are set to batter parts of New Zealand as a burst of fierce weather sweeps over central and southern regions.

A front is due to move on to the South Island tonight and cross southern and central New Zealand in the next 24 hours bringing a swathe of wild weather.

The MetService is forecasting damaging gales will batter Wellington and Wairarapa tomorrow.

Destructive westerly winds gusting up to 120km/h are expected from dawn until dusk in the capital and late Thursday evening in the Wairarapa.


People are being warned trees and powerlines could be damaged and driving could prove hazardous, especially over the Rimutaka Hill Rd.

A strong wind watch is in force across the South Island, including inland Marlborough and the Sounds, Canterbury high country, coastal parts of Southland and Clutha and Stewart Island.

A heavy rain warning has also been issued for parts of the West Coast of the South Island. Heavy rain is expected from 8pm for 12 hours in the Westland ranges south of Otira.

Up to 180mm is likely with the heaviest falls expected early Thursday morning.

A severe rain watch has also been issued for western South Island and the Tararua Ranges.