Tropical Cyclone Hola has weakened as it slowly moves past New Caledonia but forecasters say it still poses a "serious risk" for New Zealand.

The cyclone that has been battering parts of Vanuatu with wind gusts of up to 230km/h has been downgraded from Category 4 to Category 3.

In its latest track map the Fiji MetService said the storm would continue to weaken with sustained winds of 150km/h dropping to 120km/h.

It is forecast to track southwards towards eastern New Caledonia tonight and overnight, before heading in the general direction of New Zealand over the weekend.

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The latest track map issued by the Fiji Metservice this morning has downgraded Tropical Cyclone Hola from Category 4 to 3. Image / Fiji Metservice
The latest track map issued by the Fiji Metservice this morning has downgraded Tropical Cyclone Hola from Category 4 to 3. Image / Fiji Metservice

Weatherwatch NZ analyst Philip Duncan said there was "good news and bad for New Zealand".

"The good news is the storm looks to weaken much earlier before New Zealand than Gita and Fehi did.

"It also looks like it will go through the extra-tropical transition much further north than those two previous cyclones, which can lessen the wind damage here too."

Wind damage was still possible but the intensity of the storm could lower further if the transition happens earlier.

"The bad news is, all modelling continues to show a direct hit to northern New Zealand is looking very likely on Monday.

"In what shape and form is hard to lock in due to the fact the cyclone will be morphing into a new low pressure system that just 24 hours later may look unrecognisable to Hola."

The latest track map issued by the Fiji Metservice shows the tip of New Zealand. Image / Fiji Metservice
The latest track map issued by the Fiji Metservice shows the tip of New Zealand. Image / Fiji Metservice

A lot of "moving parts" were influencing the exact shape Hola would take when it arrived here.

"Helping steer Cyclone Hola will be a large high to New Zealand's east.

"If this high shrinks a little, or moves eastwards a little, it will allow Hola to take a more eastern track to New Zealand.

"If the high grows a bit, expands a bit, then that could push Hola further westward towards the Tasman Sea side of New Zealand and therefore more populated places.

"The severe weather is mostly around the centre; further afield it's just normal cloud, wind and rain."

The exact details will be fine tuned over the weekend as the storm neared.

Cyclone Hola was similar to Cyclone Cook, which hit before Easter last year, Duncan said.

"It is a powerful tropical cyclone, but also quite compact. The severe weather and heavy rain covers a small area - so the precise tracking makes all the difference with a storm like this as to who might be impacted."