Winds of up to 130km/h and gusts reaching 170km/h are set to pummel New Caledonia's eastern Loyalty Islands as Cyclone Hola sweeps through today on its way to New Zealand.
The cyclone is expected to reach the most populous island in the group, Lifou, about 10am local time, according to New Caledonian news reports.
However, the storm is expected to be downgraded to an ex-cyclone before it reaches Northland, Weather Watch said in a statement.
The north of the country - Northland, parts of Auckland, eastern Waikato, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, East Cape and Gisborne - appear to be most at risk of wild weather as Hola nears.
"The storm is now tracking south eastwards and is speeding up - although generally the storm system is slowly weakening now that's it's tracking away from the equator and into less favourable conditions," said Weather Watch.
The Red Cross is urging Kiwis to be prepared as the storm approaches and check they've got the essentials ready in case they need to evacuate.
It isn't completely clear when Hola was likely to make landfall in New Zealand, according to Weather Watch. Most data indicated this was likely to happen on Monday. But other predictive models scheduled its arrival for a day earlier or a day later.
MetService's latest forecast also predicts that the storm will strike here on Monday.
Cyclone Hola was a "compact" storm, Weather Watch said, which meant it was hard to precisely track its centre.
If the storm moved slightly east most regions would avoid the worst of its wrath as most of the serious weather would stay out at sea, according to Weather Watch's latest update.
However, much of the upper North Island - including Auckland - would bear the brunt if it shifted slightly west.