Extreme wind gusts in the South Island have cut power to areas and even created surf spots on usually placid bodies of water.

Queenstown's dormant surfers came to life yesterday evening as the wild winds whipped up waves on Lake Wakatipu near Fernhill.

Local resident Lydia Clarke captured footage about 6pm of half a dozen surfers "absolutely frothing" as they rode the rare swell.

She said it was the first time she had seen people surfing there.


Meanwhile parts of Kaikōura and Canterbury are without power this morning after being hit by extreme wind gusts of up to 170km/h overnight.

A tree blocked a road in Otago after yesterday's high winds. Photo / Aurora Energy
A tree blocked a road in Otago after yesterday's high winds. Photo / Aurora Energy

Mainpower, which supplies power to 39,000 customers in Kaikōura and northern Canterbury, said at 10.26pm that it had "multiple unplanned outages affecting the network".

"Work to restore power is expected to begin on the morning of [Thursday]," it said.

"We are aiming to restore power to most customers over the next 24 hours."

Canterbury company Orion listed 769 customers without power mainly in Christchurch and on Banks Peninsula this morning.

Marlborough Lines Company, which supplies northern Marlborough, said early today that its staff "hope to have power restored from Ward to Tirohanga by 8am".

It now says: "Power has been restored to the east coast from Ward to Kekerengu. We still have faults on the line further south and staff will be patrolling the line this morning."

MetService meteorologist Sarah Haddon said the cold front which brought down trees and power lines in Otago and Canterbury yesterday hit Kaikōura between 9.30pm and 10.30pm, with mean wind speeds of 120km/h and "very significant" gusts of up to 170km/h.

However, the front weakened as it moved on to the North Island, with maximum winds of 45km/h gusting to 70km/h in Wellington at about 11.30pm.

No power outages have been reported in Wellington.

"The front is now in a line between Raglan and Gisborne, but it has weakened and kind of left just a few showers with the change," Haddon said. "It will still feel a little bit cooler today."

At its peak yesterday afternoon the bad weather cut power to about 4500 homes in Central Otago and Queenstown, but Aurora Energy said only 1100 homes and businesses were still without power at 10.30pm last night.

"Efforts to restore power have been hampered the number of very large trees downed by wind gusts across a wide area," the company said.

"Power is off to customers in Makarora; Paradise; Glenorchy [efforts are being made to restore power from a backup generator tonight]; Glenda Drive, Frankton."

Haddon said people in Otago and most of the South Island woke up to fine weather this morning, although temperatures were still colder.

Maximum temperatures are forecast to be only 19C in Christchurch and Queenstown today, down from 33C in Christchurch and 22C in Queenstown yesterday.

"For the North Island, the temperatures are not a whole lot lower," Haddon said.

Wellington will be down from 23C yesterday to 18C but Auckland's top temperature will be unchanged on 24C.

The front is forecast to move off the top of the North Island tonight, leaving clear weather over most of the country tomorrow.

"Unfortunately over the weekend there is another front coming on to the South Island, and will slowly make its way on to the North Island," Haddon said.

Rain is forecast on the West Coast on Saturday, with scattered rain in Otago and Southland.

A few showers are expected in western parts of the North Island on Sunday, but the rest of the country will stay mainly fine through the weekend.