A break in the rain saved the South Taranaki town of Opunake from a worse fate, firefighters say.
About 30 properties are water damaged after heavy rain overnight caused significant flooding.
Local schools and the library were closed, as well as some local roads.
Opunake Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Kevin Joyce said it was the worst flooding he had ever seen in the town but that it could have been worse.
"If it had kept raining like it had been for another hour, maybe two hours, it would have been a real mess," he said.
"We were just lucky it stopped when it did."
Mr Joyce said most of the residents who were evacuated have returned to their homes to assess the damage.
Local business manager Clem Coxhead said he had been talking to firefighters who had dealt with a fire at the library as well as multiple flooding callouts.
"One gentleman was stuck in his garage and had to be rescued. He was trying to retrieve things from his flooded garage," Mr Coxhead said.
Mr Coxhead said one of the town's creeks had not been able to handle the rainfall.
"So that completely flooded three people's houses over the road and on its way down to the sea, so the water would be about nine inches deep I guess, across the road, which means it would be very deep around their houses."
Further north, a burst of heavy rain and strong winds in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty brought down trees and powerlines early this morning.
The Fire Service said it attended a handful of incidents where trees or powerlines had come down but there had been no damage to property.
The heavy rain caused a bank to give way on a property in the Auckland suburb of Orakei. One person was evacuated from the house, which was under renovation, and the Fire Service said no other houses were under threat.
A tree was partially blocking State Highway 36 between Rotorua and Tauranga and contractors were working to remove it.