People walk through a main street under snow in Auckland, New Zealand.

Wellington - Snow from a once-in-a-lifetime Antarctic blast reached New Zealand's so-called “winterless” north on Tuesday, as much of the country remained in the grip of a big freeze for the third day.

Residents reported a dusting of snow on a range nearly 200 kilometres north of Auckland, the country's largest city, which had its coldest day on record Monday, when the temperature never rose above 8.2 degrees Celsius.

Snow settled on the ground in central Auckland for the first time since 1939, and buses were cancelled, preventing commuters from going to work in the capital Wellington after its heaviest snowfall for half a century.

While many residents of Auckland and Wellington delighted in the first snow they had ever seen, the polar blast brought misery for much of the South Island, including Christchurch, where thousands of people still live in homes badly damaged by a series of earthquakes over the last 11 months.

About 1 000 homes in the Christchurch region were without power, buses were idle because of snow-blocked roads, and schools were closed.

With main highways closed throughout both of the country's two main islands, police in many towns and cities advised people to stay at home rather than risk driving or walking on icy, treacherous roads.

Forecasters predicted more heavy snowfall over much of the country late Tuesday and warned the icy blast could continue until Thursday. - Sapa-dpa