Heavy snow has closed several South Island roads as a wintry blast moves up the country.

Winter arrived in force overnight, with temperatures in the South Island plummeting to below zero - and snowfalls packing more of a punch today.

Timaru Airport was the coldest place in the country this morning, at -5.3C, and Pukaki was not far behind at -4.3C. Christchurch had freezing conditions and fog overnight.

The MetService has issued snowfall warnings for seven major roads and highways. The Lindis Pass (SH8) between Omarama and Tarras has been closed because of snow and ice, and snowfall warnings are in place for Lewis Pass, Arthurs Pass, Porters Pass, Haast Pass, the Crown Range Rd and Milford Rd.

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As of midday the NZ Transport Agency has also closed a section of SH8 from Fairlie to Tekapo (Burkes Pass), and SH 80 Aoraki Mount Cook Highway due to heavy snow.

South Island skifields have also been reporting welcome snowfall as the season opening nears. Coronet Peak near Queenstown posted a photo to social media showing 23cm had fallen over a three-hour period this morning.

To confirm last 3 hours accumulation at base

Posted by Coronet Peak on Friday, 5 June 2020

MetService meteorologist Andy Best told the Herald the nasty southerly change bringing rain and snow had been moving up the South Island this morning.

Coastal areas of Central Otago and the Canterbury Plains were doused in heavy rain late this morning after Dunedin got a soaking earlier today.

Southland and Clutha got snow to 300m-400m above sea level in places before easing to isolated showers around midday.

"There will be snow down to about 400m in Fiordland this morning," Best said. "It looks like maybe some heavy rain on the West Coast of the South Island too.

"As [the change] pushes up through Canterbury, we're expecting snow this evening down to between 400-500m and between 600-700m around the Kaikoura coast."

Across the North Island, temperatures will be average for the time of year. Auckland and Hamilton are expected to reach 16C, Wellington 14C, and Tauranga 17C.

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The southerly would march up the country, hitting Wellington about 6pm and it would pack a punch too, Best said.

This evening, the weather will continue to push north, past Wellington City, Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast, Manawatu and into southern Hawke's Bay.

Northland to Waikato, including Coromandel, will have cloudy periods and a few showers, mainly in the west, today.

Bay of Plenty, Taupō, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay will be mainly fine, with isolated showers about Taupō.

Waitomo to Wellington, including Taihape and Wairarapa, will also be mainly fine but there will be showers further north.

Most of the nasty weather will pass through Auckland overnight.

"We have a few showers but they do become widespread over Auckland tonight with the southwesterlies pushing through," Best said.

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"Sunday morning, those showers are expected to clear before dawn, leaving the southwesterlies and cloudy periods.

"Auckland tomorrow isn't too bad at all. Temperatures are around about average for this time of year, 15C is the maximum expected."

Seven road snowfall warnings were issued across the South Island and Best asked motorists to check the MetService website before travelling.

Haast Pass was only expecting a little snow this morning, and only around 1cm of snow settling, MetService said.

Lewis Pass can expect snow this afternoon. Around 4cm-8cm of snow could set on the summit of the road, with less down to 500m.

Porters Pass will also get snow today, with the chance of 5cm-8cm settling on the top of the road. Arthurs Pass will get 4cm-6cm.

Above 800m, 2cm-4cm of snow is expected to settle on Crown Range Rd this morning.

Milford Rd (SH94) can expect 4cm-6cm of snow to fall near the tunnel this morning. Tomorrow, 10cm-15cm may fall between 1am and 1pm.

Tonight would bring another round of frosty temperatures in the South Island, with Alexandra forecast to drop to -5C; and Wanaka, Queenstown, Timaru and Christchurch -4C.

Saturday forecast

Whangārei:

Cloudy periods and a possible shower. Southwesterlies. High 17C, Low 10C.

Auckland: Cloudy periods. A few showers, becoming widespread overnight. Southwesterlies. 16C, 11C.

Hamilton: Cloudy periods, and one or two showers possible. Rain developing at overnight. Southwesterly breezes. 16C, 6C.

Tauranga: Fine, then cloud increasing from afternoon. Southwesterly breezes. 17C, 8C.

Wellington: Morning cloud then fine. Rain developing late afternoon, briefly heavy as northerlies change strong southerly. 14C, 5C.

Christchurch: Cloud increasing. Rain develops midday with strong southerlies, then a few showers clear at night. Snow possible to 500m on Banks Peninsula. 9C, -4C.

Dunedin: Morning rain, then the odd shower until evening. Northerlies changing southerly in the morning. 9C, 3C.

Invercargill: Rain, easing to showers in the morning then clearing in the afternoon. Brisk southwesterlies. 9C, 2C.