Coastal communities along the North Island's east coast are being warned to expect monster 6m waves when Cyclone Cody slams into New Zealand this weekend.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence is telling campers and people living in coastal settlements to be aware that heavy swells of up to 6m are likely.
The region is also expected to deluged by heavy rain that may impact roads and inland areas, according to Civil Defence.
Lifeguards are warning swimmers to take greater care on the region's beaches as the cyclone tracks towards New Zealand, following a horrific summer of water deaths and injuries.
The intensified cyclone - reported by Weather Watch last night as a severe category 3 event - is approaching New Zealand and is expected to make conditions at beaches on the east coast of the North Island especially dangerous.
Cyclone Cody is due to hit New Zealand on Saturday but waves along the east coast are expected to build rapidly from Friday and through the weekend.
At Mount Maunganui beach, wave heights are expected to reach up to 4m by Sunday.
All eastern North Island beaches are expected to be impacted including those in Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and possibly Hawke's Bay.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand national search and rescue manager Allan Mundy warned: "Conditions created by the cyclone are likely to pose great risk to swimmers and people carrying out other coastal activities as they create strong rip currents, strong winds and large surging waves inundating the beach, which are a hazard for would-be swimmers and walkers alike."
Mundy, a lifeguard at Omanu Beach Surf Life Saving Club, said in those conditions, even if swimming in relatively shallow water, swimmers could quickly find themselves out of their depth "when these large cyclone swells hit the beach".
"Such waves are not consistent, and this unpredictable pattern often catches out beachgoers, because the large dangerous waves are spaced well apart. The best advice is to take note where the wet sand is, that's how far the big waves will travel up the beach - so stay out of that zone."
The cyclone has already hit Fiji and is tracking towards New Zealand.
Yesterday forecasters warned it could bring flooding, coastal inundation and damaging winds to New Zealand.
Last week a man in his 50s died while swimming at Mount Maunganui. He was the latest water-related death in a holiday drowning toll of 14 people from Christmas Eve to January 5.
According to data provided by Water Safety New Zealand, the last time New Zealand recorded 14 deaths was in the holiday period between 1997 and 1998.
Mundy warned people to:
- Only swim between the red and yellow flags
- Do not swim alone
- Keep young children out of the water and within reach if close to the water
- Do not take any undue risks
Be aware the lifeguards may choose not to put the red and yellow flags up and fly "Red Danger - No Swimming" flags instead. These flags warn the public the beach is not safe to swim at during this period. Please respect their decision and find somewhere safer to swim, such as a public swimming pool.