The snowstorm which blanketed parts of the South Island, prompting Air New Zealand to cancel its Queenstown flights, is releasing its grasp on the island.

Part of a low-pressure system which sucker-punched the south also caused the closure of schools and left some motorists stranded.

However, the MetService meteorologist Andy Best said the system should clear the South Island this evening.

"The low-pressure system which brought this snow event is currently heading southeast and should clear the South Island this evening.


"Cold southwest winds in the wake of the low brought snow this morning to parts of Fiordland, Southland and Otago," Best said.

A ridge of high pressure is set to build across the South Island from the Tasman Sea tomorrow and Wednesday, providing mainly fine weather.

All flights scheduled to arrive or depart at Queenstown Airport were cancelled earlier today but the airport remained open.

The airport said the snow was clearing and the runway was being cleared of any surface snow earlier today.

From about 4am this morning in Queenstown, heavy snow started falling and left parts of the area without power and closing major roads.

An Aurora Energy spokesperson advised snow has caused power outages to parts of Queenstown, Frankton, Arrowtown, Dalefield and Glenorchy.

At 12.30pm power was still out in some places in Queenstown, Frankton and Closeburn, according to the electricity provider.

Heavy snow and snow-laden tree branches on lines were causing problems after up to 45cm of snow settled on the ground in some Queenstown suburbs.

The first snow in Wanaka this year arrived two weeks into spring today. A snowy Helwick St. Photo / Mark Price
The first snow in Wanaka this year arrived two weeks into spring today. A snowy Helwick St. Photo / Mark Price

This morning the Queenstown Lakes District Council said several people were stranded on the Crown Range Rd and commuters were being urged to use chains.

The Haast Pass (SH6) and the Lindis Pass (SH8) were both closed before the Lindis was reopened at 11.52am, with drivers advised to slow down and take care.

MetService said at 4pm snow will continue to fall before easing this evening for the Lindis Pass, Haast Pass, Crown Range Rd, Milford Rd and the Dunedin to Waitati Highway.

Cardrona Ski Resort reported 45cm of fresh powder snow had fallen overnight and it was forecast to continue snowing through the day.

"This is the largest single snowfall of winter 2018," a spokeswoman for the resort said.

"Cardrona is closed today whilst we get a handle on this massive snow dump. We expect to resume operations tomorrow, with a fine forecast predicted by the MetService."

The same amount of snow was also recorded at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables overnight.

Loss of power to the wider Queenstown area resulted in the closure of both ski fields but operations are good to go tomorrow as clear weather is expected.

Wakatipu High School and various primary schools including Queenstown Primary were closed, along with numerous daycare centres.

All of the schools in the Wakatipu Basin were also reportedly closed due to the snow.

Northwesterly winds were expected to approach gale force in Central Otago, the Southern Lakes and the Canterbury High Country as a strong watch was in place.

A heavy rain warning is in force for Fiordland north of Doubtful Sound, Westland south of Otira and the headwaters of Otago and Canterbury Lakes and Rivers.

Tomorrow a front hanging over central New Zealand is expected to move northeast over the North Island while a subtropical low moves southeast of the North Island's northeast coast.

"There is uncertainty about the track of this low, hence there is a low risk that rainfall accumulations could approach warning amounts about Northland, northeast parts of Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula on Tuesday, and about northern parts of Gisborne during Tuesday to Wednesday," MetService said.

On Wednesday a ridge should move to central New Zealand from the west while strengthening northwesterlies develop over the South Island.

"This front is expected to move onto the South Island on Thursday, with a moderate confidence of rain accumulations approaching warning amounts about Fiordland and southern Westland on Thursday.

"The front should then weaken over the South Island on Friday."