A state of emergency has been declared for the Bay of Plenty as the region braces for the arrival of Cyclone Cook - just days after the tail end of Cyclone Debbie caused widespread damage and destruction.
A severe weather warning is in place with heavy rain expected from about midday tomorrow to midday Friday, said MetService meteorologist Sarah Sparks.
She said 200 to 250mm was forecast to potentially accumulate over the 48 hours.
"The maximum rainfall rate is 30 to 40mm [per hour] with thunderstorms possible."
A local state of emergency was declared this afternoon for the Bay of Plenty civil defence emergency management group, meaning government agencies and emergency services are all on standby and will work closely with residents should they be needed.
It supersedes the state of emergency declared for the Whakatane District Council last Thursday.
"People need to wait for further instruction at present. We will be issuing information to keep the public up to date."
In a statement, Rotorua Lakes Council said staff would continue to monitor the situation and preventive checks, action and preparations were under way.
"Due to these [weather] events coming one after another water levels in our lakes, rivers and streams are still higher than normal so another event is likely to see some waterways overflowing and surface flooding."
The Lakefront will be cordoned off as a precaution and the council is urging people to stay clear of all lake and water edges.
It said the safety of residents, followed by protection of property, get priority in terms of dealing with reported flooding, slips or overflowing waterways, and roading contractors, InfraCore and emergency services such as the Fire Service, would be called in as required.
During the past two weather events a treated wastewater pond at the Rotorua Wastewater Treatment Plant overflowed into the Puarenga stream.
The council said the amount of treated wastewater in the holding ponds at the plant and Whakarewarewa Forest was being kept as low as possible in anticipation of potentially heavy rain.
"The council is limited in the preventive measures it is able to take to avoid another overflow during a heavy rainfall event. Finding the cause of the large amounts of rainwater which entered the treatment plant during two recent weather events is a lengthy process . . . this process has already started but will take time."
Motorists are being asked to travel only if they have to, and to drive with extra care, particularly on rural roads where there may be slips.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council duty flood manager Peter Blackwood said the Okere gates had been open for more than two weeks and were discharging flood water from Lakes Rotoiti and Rotorua at capacity.
"There are no further steps we can take to lower these lake levels and residents should expect some flooding around lake margins."
Mr Blackwood said with the information currently available, the bulk of the rain was going to arrive Thursday and it looked as if coastal communities would be hit the worst.
"Severe gales are also predicted along the coast which will likely lead to storm surges and flooding of coastal margins."
Mr Blackwood said a number of precautions were being taken in the Edgecumbe area.
"We are working closely with Trustpower to lower the Matahina Dam to the lowest levels ever recorded. Our pumps along the Rangitikei are also going full speed to remove water from flooded areas and there are ongoing inspections of the stop banks."
All 57 schools and about 80 early learning services in the Eastern Bay of Plenty were advised to close tomorrow.
There was concern further flooding would close roads already affected by slips, said the Ministry of Education's deputy secretary of Sector Enablement and Support Katrina Casey.
"We do not want to risk having students stranded at schools as a result of road conditions," she said. "The developing weather situation will be reassessed [this] afternoon to decide whether the schools and ECEs reopen on Thursday."
She said there was the potential for further closures outside the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
"Parents are advised to check their websites or Facebook pages or contact them directly."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said local people should look out for friends and neighbours.
"It's important we look out for one another in the coming days so make sure you have a plan to keep yourself and your loved ones safe."
How to stay informed
Sign up for Bay of Plenty Civil Defence text alerts by texting the two letters for your residential area to 2028: RO for Rotorua, TA for Tauranga, WB for Western Bay, KA for Kawerau, WH for Whakatane and OP for Opotiki.
Follow the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Facebook page or visit the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence website at www.bopcivildefence.govt.nz.
Live updates will also be on rotoruadailypost.co.nz and the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page.
Slips should be reported to the Rotorua Lakes Council on (07) 348 4199 and clearing of slips will be prioritised.
How to prepare
Check that the drains and downpipes on your property are clear.
People concerned about their properties and wanting to take preventive action should in the first instance try to source sandbags from retail outlets.
Keep your pets indoors.
Keep water use to a minimum to reduce the strain on the city's stormwater and wastewater systems.
Travel only if you have to and if you do, drive with extra care.