A key road leading to the Coromandel Peninsula has partially opened this afternoon as the district experiences its worst flooding in 10 years.
Several residents have been left homeless after being evacuated due to their homes getting damaged by slips as contractors and emergency services work to clear and repair roads.
The rising Kauearanga River earlier cut State Highway 25 into Thames, and debris and floods has blocked the Thames Coast Rd but one lane is now open.
Police are urging motorists to avoid the area as the weather worsens and the tide starts to rise again.
The New Zealand Transport Agency asks motorists to drive with "extra care" as there is flooding in the northbound lane.
SH25 at Whiritoa remains closed because of slips.
The road is closed at Whangamata, Tairua, between Kereta to Touma, and at Whitianga because of flooding.
The Karangahake Gorge between Waihi to Paeroa, which was briefly closed after a blocked culvert began to flood, is now open. Drivers should continue to take extra care.
Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie said it was the worst flooding the district has experienced in 10 years.
"What compounds is it [is] a tide that is going to turn in half an hour. So on a low tide with flooding and areas impassable and then there the tide starts to come in there's nowhere for the water to go. It can potentially only get worse."
Goudie said the worst hit was Whangamata, followed by Pauanui, then Whitianga.
"You can't get through to Tairua, you can't get through to Thames and you can't get through to parts of Whitianga either so essentially the call to stay off the roads is the right one."
Widespread flooding of roads across the Eastern Seaboard of the Coroamndel and Kaiaua coast north to Thames, with multiple communities isolated due to road closures including Kaiaua, Whiritoa, Onemana, Opoutere, Whangamata, Pauanui, Tairua and Whitianga.
Thames SH25 closed South of Thames
In its latest update, a council spokesperson this afternoon confirmed two homes had been damaged by slips in Onemana, however the occupants were all safe.
Several houses have also been flooded in the Hikuai and Pauanui settelements. The flooding is so bad at Duck Creek that firefighters are unable to gain access.
Two families were evacuated in Tairua, while up to 10 homes were evacuated in Kaiaua. Local firefighters are bagging sand bags.
SH25 is closed northbound at Opoutere and southbound at Whangamata with many businesses and houses flooded. Three homes were evacuated and its wastewater network shutdown.
Pauanui resident Michelle Dellabarca said she hasn't seen flooding so bad in her area during the 15 years she's lived there.
She's on Holland Pl, which is one of the lower streets, closer to the beach.
"I'm safe and dry but I have never seen it so flooded, not in the years we have been in Pauanui."
She spoke to a neighbour who recalled flooding after a culvert was blocked by a log about five years ago, but today was purely down to rain, she said.
"It's still raining," she said at 7.30am. "Out my window it looks like a beach. There's logs everywhere."
Ducks were also out basking in the water, she said, which was at least a metre deep.
Dellabarca expected the floodwaters to ease as the tide went out but had been told that evacuation centres were being set up in the town.
"It must be bad."
A Thames-Coromandel District Council spokeswoman urged residents not to drive anywhere as many roads were closed and those not closed likely had debris on them, which was being cleared by firefighters.
"Whangamata, Tairua, Pauanui: there's a lot of flooding, there's no way of getting in or out of there at the moment.
"Even trying to get from Whangamata to Thames, even coming into Thames from the Plains - there's a lot of flooding and debris on the road."
The Thames Coast Rd is littered with debris between Thames and Coromandel Town and is inaccessible.
Civil Defence centres have been set up in the Pauanui Community Centre and the Whangamata Town Hall and those in Thames can head to the council building.
Wastewater services in Whangamata were also under pressure.
"So don't flush if you don't need to," the spokeswoman said.
The council initially reported the town was out of petrol, however Z Energy has confirmed it has petrol in Whangamata - although Eftpos wasn't working.
The Ministry of Education confirmed 12 Coromandel schools are closed today: Tapu School, Opoutere School, Hikuai School, Whangamata School, Te Wharekura o Manaia, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Harataunga, Rainbow Cottage Whangamata, Riverlee, Karangahake School, Matatoki School, Moanataiari School, Parawai School, Thames South School, Puriri School.
Several Thames early learning services are also closed: A Fun Place To Be, Pukeko's Educare, Rainbow Connection, Whenuakite Country Kids, Central North Kindergarten Tairua, Central North Mercury Bay, Thames Coast and Milly's Educare.
Senior Sergeant Dean Anderson from the Waikato District Command Centre says several main roads are water-logged or flooded and Coromandel is effectively cut off.
"More rain is forecast for the rest of the day and high tide is still to come.
"The situation is just going to get worse.
"Anyone who doesn't need to travel is asked to stay away. We're getting reports of people driving to see the flooding and getting caught out. It's not worth the risk."
The NZ Transport Agency is advising people to avoid all non-essential travel as SH25 is closed in three places, including south of Tairua.
There is a detour in place north of Whitianga, which will add an hour and 20 minutes to a journey.
SH25 is also closed north of Whangamata at Opoutere. However, a detour is now available through the township.
Agency regional performance manager, Karen Boyt, says people should avoid all non-essential travel on the Coromandel peninsula.
"Our contractors are out checking the roads and we are expecting the closures we have so far to be in place for several hours at least.
"For now people should stay off the roads if they can because there is a high risk of flooding and slips," Boyt says.
Power is out around Whangamata and there are reports of flooding in Whitianga and the Kauaeranga Valley.