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Tractors and boats are helping take locals to safety after flooding along the Bay of Plenty cut power to homes, made rivers burst their banks and damaged bridges.
The rain was brought by Tropical Storm Debbie which killed six people in Australia when it landed as a cyclone.
Heavy storms are also hitting New Zealand's South Island.
Hundreds of homes have been flooded in Edgecumbe, with water reported to be as high as 2m (6.5ft) in places.
Parts of the Bay of Plenty area received up to 250mm of rain in the last 36 hours, the New Zealand Herald reported.
One man is missing in floodwaters near the swollen Waikato river.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett told reporters that the authorities' message to affected residents was: "Get and stay out."