Thunderstorms and heavy downpours will ruin the Christmas Day barbeque and drag families indoors across much of the country today.

Auckland is faring better with cloud overhead, but there's still a chance of isolated showers later in the afternoon. Northland has clear skies and some sun is peaking through on the western side of the North Island.

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For the rest of New Zealand, it's a bleak picture with a warning from Niwa of heavy downpours with flooding and slips.

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Christmas day brought fine weather to Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Christmas day brought fine weather to Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Rain is forecast to continue on Boxing Day morning, making conditions for driving difficult as people head to the beach and bach.

Weatherwatch said the highest risk for heavy rain is inland parts of the upper half of the North Island. The downpours are predicted to drift right across Waikato and parts of the Bay of Plenty guided by sea breezes as the day heats up. Thunderstorms are on the cards this afternoon.

At 8.15am this morning, Weatherwatch said showers are tracking around Rotorua to Murupara and moving southwards in a light northerly breeze. Some patchy weather is also spilling over into northern Hawkes Bay.

In the South Island, patchy light rain is moving into Canterbury and showers are forecast for Dunedin later in the day.

Stephen Lovatt performs the traditional Christmas Day play The End of the Golden Weather on Takapuna Beach. Photo / Michael Craig
Stephen Lovatt performs the traditional Christmas Day play The End of the Golden Weather on Takapuna Beach. Photo / Michael Craig

The main ranges in the South Island will get heavy downpours this afternoon, clearing in the evening.

Boxing Day's weather looks much the same - showers in the central North Island, though it will become fine in the east of the South Island.

However the 26th could have another surprise in store - a tropical cyclone is expected to form near Fiji.

Forecasters say it is too early to say if it will make it down to New Zealand over the holiday period but are watching the area closely.

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Today's forecasts

Whangarei:

Possible afternoon showers 23C

Auckland: Fairly cloudy, 25 per cent chance of rain this afternoon 23C

Tauranga: Cloudy morning, isolated showers in the afternoon 22C

Hamilton: Cloudy and dry this morning, possible downpours this afternoon 24C

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New Plymouth: Mostly cloudy, slim chance of rain 22C

Napier/Hastings: Afternoon showers 19C

Wellington: Mostly cloudy with south-east winds. Slim chance of rain 17C

Nelson: Cloud, 20 per cent chance of rain 19C

Christchurch: Cloud with possible light showers in the afternoon 15C

Dunedin: Showers 14C

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Queenstown: Light rain developing in the afternoon 16C

Invercargill: Partly cloudy 14C