Gale-force winds and heavy downpours are pummelling Auckland and parts of the North Island - and they're set to continue this morning.

It comes after one person died when a yacht they were in sank 20km north of Cape Brett, off Northland's coast, about 1pm on Monday.

Three other people were winched to safety, after the distress call from the occupants of a 14m (47 foot) yacht floundering in choppy seas. They have been admitted to Whangārei Hospital.

The four sailors said they were abandoning their vessel, having lost their liferaft in the five to six-metre swells and 40 to 50 knot gusts.

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As the severe weather moves down the country, winds of up to 105km/h struck Auckland and were forecast to turn into severe 120km/h gales in exposed parts of the city throughout the night until the early hours of Tuesday..

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) were expecting a busy night dealing with incidents caused by the gales and heavy rain.

The MetService has issued a number of severe weather warnings for strong winds and heavy rain for areas including Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne, Auckland, Great Barrier Island and Waikato from Cambridge northwards.

Rain accumulations of between 100mm to 140mm are expected in parts of the Coromandel Peninsula between 6pm and 11pm tomorrow.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is advising motorists in the upper North Island to take extra care on the road as driving conditions may be hazardous.

"The duration of the heavy rain, combined with high winds and tides, means drivers will need to take care. Drive to the conditions and watch out for surface flooding, slips and fallen trees or branches," said NZTA director regional relationships Ross I'Anson.

He said Coromandel Peninsula was also forecast to receive heavy rain between 8pm tonight and 11pm on Tuesday, which may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly.

"Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous."

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By tomorrow, the rain and winds "will be just about everywhere" in the North Island, especially on the East Coast.

Meanwhile in the South Island, Marlborough will also get some rain on Tuesday, along with some cloud and showers for Canterbury.

However, it will be largely fine for the west and south of the South Island.

As the system tapers off on Wednesday, there will be a couple of more "settled" days, when the winds and rain ease, before two more fronts hit the country - one coming up from the south and another to hit Northland, before again moving south.

As for temperatures, most of the country was getting the "average for this time of year" conditions.

Auckland is forecast to reach a high of 19C tomorrow, and 18C on Wednesday.

Christchurch was likely to be one of the cooler cities as it gets down to 13C, but will jump back up to 17C by Wednesday.