Civil Defence says people in the Coromandel should not be complacent about the storm headed for the region.
Cyclone Hale is expected to bring heavy rain, gale winds and hazardous coastal conditions to the Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay from 8pm on Monday.
Heavy rain and strong wind watches are also in place for Northland, Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Bay of Plenty and Taupō.
MetService said more areas were likely to be added as the cyclone got closer and its exact track and intensity became clearer.
Here are the latest Severe Weather Warnings & Watches based on the forecast track of Cyclone Hale. More areas will likely be added in future issues as the system moves closer & its track & intensity becomes more certain https://t.co/qHyE5zzql5 ^PL pic.twitter.com/e1iDYPTFX8— MetService (@MetService) January 8, 2023
Cyclone Hale is expected to move south as a subtropical low on Tuesday, bringing severe weather to parts of northern and central New Zealand on Tuesday and Wednesday.— MetService (@MetService) January 8, 2023
Check for Warnings and Watches at https://t.co/HZ2TSD5rV7 pic.twitter.com/OCgCSHpsaf
Unsealed roads in Gisborne are being closed to heavy freight trucks for 24 hours from 8pm.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence said the closure will be reviewed Tuesday morning.
It is advising motorists to expect slips, dropouts, downed trees and surface flooding, and be prepared for more potholes on the sealed road network.
Forestry workers warned to stop work
As Cyclone Hale approaches New Zealand, the Forest Industry Safety Council's Safetree service is reminding forestry operators in Northland, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay they should halt operations during heavy wind and rain.
Safetree chief executive Joe Akari said the forecasted weather conditions can make forestry operations dangerous.
Once winds get over 50km/h, forestry operators should cease all work in the forest, he said.
Ernslaw One regional manager Bill Wheeler said his workers were meant to start back on Monday, but that has been deferred until Thursday. The three-day setback will mean working weekends to catch up.
Wheeler said Gisborne has steep terrain, big catchments and a fragile road network.
Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management controller Ian Macdonald said his region was expecting heavy rains and strong winds from Tuesday night.
People visiting the area, especially campers, should keep a close eye on what was expected, he said.
Storm will be 'hard-hitting'
Thames Coromandel Civil Defence Controller Garry Towler said the storm would be "hard-hitting".
"There is a bit of what we call 'storm fatigue'. People are over it and they just want a nice summer holiday... However, our job is to keep people safe."
Civil Defence is particularly concerned about the storm surges above the high tide line likely at Buffalo and Brophy's Beaches in Whitianga.
Towler told Morning Report people need to stay away from the beaches, waterways, creeks and rivers.
"There's going to be huge seas and what we have in our lower parts of Coromandel, around Whitianga especially, is storm surge and what this does, not only does it cause significant erosion, but it actually damages structures such as boat ramps and access ways onto the beaches, etc."
He advised people to avoid travel at all costs.
In Gisborne, officials are still uncertain as to how severe the storm will be.
Gisborne's Deputy Mayor Josh Wharehinga is concerned about East Coast communities living up and down State Highway 35.
"That state highway is susceptible to heavy rain events and can close out at any time."
NIWA forecaster Chris Brandolino told Morning Report while there was some uncertainty over the trajectory of the category one cyclone, eastern areas would be worst-hit.
"If you know people who are camping - or maybe you're camping yourself - it'd be good to get word to them."
Starting late on Monday night, people would start to see heavier rain in Coromandel, Auckland, lower portions of Northland, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, he said. This would continue for much of Tuesday before the system pulled away on Wednesday.
"The rainfall amounts are certainly going to be eyebrow-raising but I think it's the intensity, the fact that it's over an area that saw very heavy rain and flooding last week."
Wind gusts could exceed 100km/h in some exposed areas, he said.
MetService forecast heavy rain to hit Hawke's Bay on Tuesday afternoon.
At-risk residents can get updates on the storm via community Facebook pages and council websites:
In Wellington, some ferries were cancelled on Sunday but services resumed in the evening.