Tornado rips up trees, lifts roof off petrol station in NZ

A "MINI tornado" has ripped through a small town north of New Plymouth this morning.

Police and the Fire Service were called to Urenui about 1.13am, Police Shift Inspector Marty Parker said.

Fences and trees were damaged as well as iron roofing on a building.

"The mini tornado did a little bit of damage this morning," Mr Parker said.

Urenui Bay Motel owner Kerri Hulbert said the motel hadn't suffered any damage but the Urenui Service Station opposite them had.

The whole front of the building had suffered and parts of the roof had been pulled off, she said.

"We heard the winds though, they scared the jeepers out of us," Ms Hulbert said.

"It was just horrible."

Wild weather heading for Auckland

The wet and wild weather looks to also be making a beeline for Auckland this morning.

Thunderstorms with heavy rain and winds gusting up to 70km/h could be in store for the city within the next hour or two, MetService duty forecaster David Miller said.

A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for Auckland from 8.17pm on Monday until 12pm today.

Lightning was currently striking seas west of Auckland but the weather was set to come in, Mr Miller said.

"There's definitely that risk of lightning," he said.

"It's mainly a morning thing though. With any thunderstorms there's always a risk of damaging winds that's where the issue lies."

The winds could get up to 70km but would ease in the afternoon, he said.

The rain would also ease to isolated showers probably before 2pm, Mr Miller said.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) urged drivers to take extra care on roads.

Strong wind and heavy rain were expected to make roads more treacherous.

"If the weather is looking particularly rough, we urge people to avoid or delay non-essential travel. It's much safer to stay put with a hot drink until it eases up," an NZTA spokesman said.