Two separate tornadoes have caused considerable damage to properties on either side of the North Island this evening.

New Plymouth was struck by a tornado around 5.30pm, uprooting trees and tearing iron roofing from houses.

Shaun Hall, who videoed the tornado in New Plymouth, said he was driving home from work when he turned a corner and all the power went out.

Water funnel off Ohope Beach in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Supplied
Water funnel off Ohope Beach in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Supplied

"I was like 'oh, that is weird' and I couldn't see anything because it went pitch black.

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"As I pulled over I noticed sheets of iron flying through the sky and I clicked straightaway what it was. I quickly grabbed my phone and took a quick video."

Hall saw about five or six roofs get ripped off nearby houses.

"It probably lasted all of about 20 seconds before it headed up the road," he said.

"I wasn't too keen on following, not when the iron was coming over the bonnet of my ute."

Hall said he was excited to see the tornado "because I have never seen anything like that before".

"But when I saw the iron coming off the houses it kind of hit home that people's homes were actually being destroyed.

"I had the dog with me and he was starting to get restless too so I thought maybe it is a bit worse than I think."

New Plymouth local Odette Bastin had the roof of her home sucked up by the tornado which has caused significantly damaged.

"It's pretty f***ed. The whole roof's gone and all the internal ceilings are coming down and there's water all through the house.

"I freaked me out, I couldn't stop shaking for ages," she told Newstalk ZB.

Bastin, a home-based educator, was at the house with a care child, her son and his partner who was expected to give birth three days ago.

Civil defence has told her not to enter the house because it is not safe. She was told by a policeman they might be able to come by tomorrow and get some belongings.

State Highways 44 and 45 near New Plymouth were closed following the tornadoes with strong winds in the area at 6.10pm.

Both highways have since reopened but are operating under stop/go controls.

Power has also been cut to parts of New Plymouth after it was struck by lightning, thunder and heavy rain.

Power is out to 1712 homes around Moturoa, according to Powerco.

The power went out at 5.30pm and Powerco estimated it would be restored by 10.30pm.

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said he'd had a briefing from Civil Defence.

"We have been advised that a couple of hours ago we had a tornado come in from the coast in a built up area of New Plymouth.

"It has basically come though the Belt Rd motor camp and then up across St Aubyn St before petering out."

He said they did not know the exact number of houses damaged, but believed it to be under 10.

"We have been advised that some roofs have been partially lifted, so there is a possibility that some of those homes may not be habitable this evening.

"We are setting up our Civil Defence New Plymouth local team and if they are called upon to provide emergency welfare or emergency accommodation, they will work with those property owners.

"We are in touch with Fire and Emergency and Powerco. They will be making things safe and looking to effect repairs as soon as possible."

Holdom said the council was pleased to hear there were no reports of injuries.

"This is particularly heartening given that the tornado came through Belt Rd motor camp."

Holdom said the city had experienced quite a lot of lightning, thunder and intermittent heavy rain.

"Things appear to have calmed down a little bit at the moment but we have teams setting up and they will be working with property owners if we are requested to assist. We will be making sure people have got somewhere safe, dry and warm to stay tonight.

"At this stage we haven't been contacted but we will be here if they need something."

Senior Sergeant Peter Lawn said there were no reports of injuries at this time, but police urged people to check on their own properties and on their neighbours, and to treat all power lines as live.

"If you have immediate concerns for your own safety or that of others, call 111."

He said Police and Fire and Emergency NZ have set up a command centre at the intersection of Belt Rd and St Aubyn St.

"If you need assistance, or if you need somewhere to stay tonight, please make contact with us at the command centre.

"Police and Fire will be door-knocking to check on the welfare of those in the affected areas."

Ohope building 'blown to pieces'

Further north, several houses in Ohope were also damaged after another tornado struck around 5.30pm.

A large waterspout has been seen off Ohope Beach in the Bay of Plenty. / Christian Surfers Whakatane

A police spokeswoman said they received calls about a tornado forming and damaging houses and roofs on Harbour Rd, Ohope, near Whakatane.

"It doesn't appear there are any injuries but emergency services are responding to reports of a tornado blowing off some roofs and damaging some houses," she said.

The tornado caused roofs to be lifted from buildings and windows to smash. There are no reports of injuries in Ohope, said Fire communications manager Craig Dally.

Dally said about 20 firefighters from Ohope, Whakatane, Taneatua and Edgecumbe responded to help with the cleanup and assisted with tarpaulins and other tasks.

The damage was isolated to the Ohope area and it was possible the tornado either died down or headed out to sea, he said.

General manager of the Ohope Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park, Mark Inman, told the Herald they lost an entire building that was "blown it to pieces" by the tornado.

"It was in and out like a flash and, yeah, there was a bit noise and wind," Inman said.

He said the tornado formed over the ocean and swept over the park earlier this evening but no one was hurt.

They were still trying to assess the full extent of the damage caused, but would have to wait until tomorrow morning, Inman said.

Ohope resident Leslie Peake and her husband Tony live in Te Taiawatea Drive about a kilometre from the Ohope Top 10 Holiday Park.

Peake said while there was no actual damage to their property, the concrete and glass paneled roof tiles were flapping around "something fierce" and created a heck of a noise.

"We didn't see the tornado coming it just suddenly arrived and hung around for about a minute, but about 10 minutes before we had really heavy rain and hail which made a hell of a racket. It was a short, sharp and horrible storm," she said.

"It was so strong it even ripped the polystyrene cover right off our spa pool which had been tied down... It was a pretty nasty storm for sure, especially after I heard a report that a building at the (Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park) camping ground was blown to bits."

Peake said they were having renovations done at their house and were so impressed with their builder and delighted to be able to tell him they had passed the "tornado test".

"The tornado came and went pretty fast and we could see still spinning for some time as it headed out across the harbour in a south-easterly direction towards Kutarere in the Opotiki area," she said.

Peake said the firefighters were "fabulous" as they went door to door checking that everyone was okay.

Earlier, MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said an active line of thunderstorms went through New Plymouth bringing an associated tornado.

"That is just gradually easing at the moment and slowly moving to the east," he said.

"We are not expecting it to get any worse. There is still a risk of small tornadoes for the next little while in the broader area, but the line of thunderstorms that would have produced this one has moved away from the city now."

Adams said it was hard to predict where a tornado will strike.