New Zealand's wild summer weather continues, with a state of emergency declared in fire-plagued Hawke's Bay, while the deep south was hit by a furious storm.

One Hawke's Bay home was destroyed by the fire, while residents in 23 homes near Waimarama had to escape the huge blaze. They later returned home.

Later, as the fire appeared to flame north, about 37 Craggy Range Rd residents were forced to evacuate 20 houses.

Christchurch's Port Hills were also ablaze last night as fire crews battled to contain flames fanned by strong winds near Early Valley Rd and Old Tai Tapu Rd.


Strong winds battered Wellington yesterday, with several inner harbour ferry sailings cancelled as gusts of up to 140km/h punished the capital, Marlborough and Wairarapa.

And in Dunedin, houses and shops were flooded after violent rain, hail, and lightning yesterday.

The state of emergency for Hastings District was declared as fires, fuelled by strong winds, continue to burn across the region.

Hawke's Bay Today's Rachel Wise described the dry land as "crumpled, yellowed parchment".

Hills near the road were black and smoking, while the smell of charred earth and trees was strong, Wise said.

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said there were four fires, with the large fire at Waimarama still raging last night.

"One house has been destroyed and other houses are threatened so it is a stage five fire. You cannot get higher than that," he said.

The region has endured a combination of strong westerly winds, high temperatures and tinder dry conditions this summer.


"We have had a whole series of fires in the last two weeks as powerlines are arcing on tinder-dry grass and setting off grass fires. We are struggling to keep up with this."

The state of emergency was declared by the Hastings District Council and Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group due to a lack of resources.

Fire crews from Auckland, Tauranga and Tararua and Wellington specialists were sent to help.

Schools were placed on alert and two busloads of children were escorted from the Waimarama area.

Lines company Unison said electricity to 707 properties in the wider fire area was cut as a precaution.

In Christchurch eight fire crews were battling that blaze, aided by four tankers and four helicopters, according to a Fire Service spokeswoman.

Further south, the Dunedin City Council said early indications were 9.5mm of rain fell in 15 minutes during the deluge that hit the city.

The council received more than 75 weather-related calls and responded to 14 houses affected by flooding, the Otago Daily Times reported.

The Dunedin City Library was evacuated for some 45 minutes after water leaked into a light fitting on the ground floor. It reopened later in the day.

A ceiling tile also fell down in the staffroom of the doctors' centre in Hanover St and the x-ray room was affected by flooding.

Shops in the Golden Centre and Meridian malls were flooded, with reports of ceiling tiles coming down.