Heavy rain and gale force winds gusting up to 120km/h are poised to hammer central parts of New Zealand with the capital directly in the firing line.

Periods of heavy rain were expected about eastern and southern parts of the North Island today, with strong cold southerlies from coastal Marlborough to lower parts of the North Island, MetService says.

A Strong Wind Warning is in force for Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds with gusts up to 120km/h in exposed places, as well as a heavy rain warning for the eastern hills of Wellington and Wairarapa.

More slips and trees have already come down in Wellington overnight and two Cook Strait ferry sailings have been cancelled.

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Police say two large rocks fell on State Highway 2 near Silverstream at about 1.40am.

Later, at about 4.30am, a tree fell on Wilton Rd and a slip came down on Churchill Drive in Crofton Downs blocking two lanes.

Wellington City Council contractors are dealing with both incidents.

A slip also halted train services between Ngaio and Johnsonville for a few hours as commuters headed home last night.

Meanwhile there is more disruption for those hoping to cross Cook Strait today.

The Interislander ferry sailing from Wellington to Picton due to leave at 3.30am was cancelled, forcing the cancellation of the return service from Picton to Wellington at 9am.

All Wellington harbour ferry sailings have also been cancelled.

Meanwhile rainfall accumulations could reach warning criteria as heavy rain could cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly.

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Slips were also possible.

Yesterday several slips were noted in the capital during gale force winds and heavy downpours.

One slip fell on to the front of a car on Ohiro Rd in Brooklyn.

Another slip came down on the westbound lane of State Highway 58, north of the city, in the morning, but had since been partially cleared.

State Highway 2, Waiotahe Beach Rd, west of Ōpotiki has been completely closed by a large slip early this morning.

Diversions are in place using Paerata Ridge and Verrall Rds and contractors and police were on site at 3am trying to resolve the issue.

"The slip is reported to be still moving making estimates for starting work or re-opening difficult," a police spokesperson said.

Overnight snow and ice had forced the closure of the Desert Road on SH1 with 2cm to 5cm of snow about the summit and southern side of the road above 900m.

In Wellington overnight, wind gusts of 130km/h were recorded in exposed areas, said MetService meteorologist Brian Mercer. Those gusts were expected to continue through the day.

Napier was also windy this morning with gusts of up to 70kmh.

Weather in the South Island was improving, there was some rain on the east coast with some cloud, but that would gradually clear by this evening.

Back north in Auckland residents of the supercity had woken up to pretty mild weather.

"Auckland is not too bad at the moment, it is quite cloudy," Mercer said.

"Later this morning we will see some showers that will continue through the afternoon."

Later in the week a "broad complex trough" was expected to lie slow moving just northeast of the North Island during Wednesday and Thursday,

This trough moves north on Friday leaving a strong to gale southerly over the North Island through Friday and Saturday.

"Persistent rain is likely to affect to eastern parts of the North Island and upper South Island from Wednesday to Friday, initially falling as snow about the Marlborough Ranges.

"There is a high risk of rainfall accumulations exceeding warning amounts about eastern areas from Gisborne City through to the northern Wairarapa, including the ranges, from Wednesday through to Friday, with a low risk about eastern Wellington, southern Wairarapa and the Marlborough Coast from Wednesday to Thursday."

There was also a moderate risk of severe gale south to southeasterlies about Taranaki, Manawatu, Horowhenua and the Kāpiti Coast during Wednesday and Thursday.

A low risk was predicted about Wellington, south Wairarapa and the Marlborough Coast on Wednesday - as indicated on chart.

Today's weather

Whangārei

: Occasional showers, possibly heavy with thunderstorms before dawn, clearing this evening. Fresh southerlies. High 14C Low 7C

Auckland: Occasional showers, clearing this evening. Fresh southerlies. High 14C Low 7C

Tauranga: A few showers, chance heavy, clearing evening. Southerlies developing afternoon. High 14C Low 7C

New Plymouth: Cloudy periods, chance shower. Strong gusty southeasterlies. High 12C Low 8C

Napier: Rain. Southerlies strengthening this afternoon. High 13C Low 8C

Whanganui: Rain gradually easing, clearing evening. Southerlies,strong at times. High 14C Low 7C

Wellington: Periods of rain. Southerlies, gale in exposed places gusting 120km​/​h this morning. High 10C Low 8C

Christchurch: Cloudy with a few showers, becoming isolated evening. Southerlies, gradually easing. High 11C Low 3C

Dunedin: Cloudy, chance morning shower, then becoming fine afternoon. Southerlies dying out. High 11C Low 5C