Hundreds of New Zealanders face another shivering night without power as a one-in-50-year

polar blast continues to freeze the country.

Heavy snow was falling in Wellington and was starting to settle in the

city. There were also reports of snow falling in New Plymouth, Rotorua

and parts of South Auckland.

The severe weather has prompted police to close roads around the Wellington region, stranding many commuters.

A bitterly cold southerly blast has caused snow to fall in areas of New Zealand which do not usually receive it, including the North Island, making roads impassable in many areas, closing airports and cutting power to thousands.

The MetService’s head forecaster, Peter Kreft, warned the polar blast could last for days.

The level of snow that had fallen in Wellington had not been seen since at least the 1970s, he said.

In Wanganui in the North Island, snow had settled for the first time since 1974, Constable Simon Beswarick said.

Authorities across the country have warned motorists to avoid all non-essential travel.

Dunedin airport was closed, passengers were left stranded at Queenstown Airport and some flights were cancelled in and out of Christchurch Airport yesterday morning.

NZ Post warned mail deliveries could be delayed in many areas because of the snow.

Road closures include the Rimutaka Hill Road, Wainuiomata Hill Road,

Paekakariki Hill Road, State Highway 58 (Haywards) between State

Highway 2 to Moonshine Road and Blue Mountains Road in Upper Hutt.

Some Wellington and Christchurch residents were unable to leave their

houses earlier today as the roads were too unsafe to drive on, and

public transport was severely hit.

Travellers were stranded at airports as some flights

were cancelled, particularly in Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington

where the airports were closed for part of the day.