There had been an expectation that the recent heavy rain would make the drivers favour running first on the road, but Latvala says the loose gravel on Friday's southerly stages will be too tough in anything but near-monsoon conditions.
"The roads have been regraded," said the Finn, "which means there is a lot of loose around and it is best to wait further back on the road after this has been cleared.
"Even if the heavy rain comes then it will be absorbed by the gravel and then the strong winds on the coast will dry the roads quickly.
"I am not so worried for the rain, but the gravel could be tough if you are not in the right position."
Latvala is chasing the factory Ford team's first victory since Rally Sweden in New Zealand this week, and the Finn admits he and his team-mate Petter Solberg have to try and relax on the North Island roads.
"The weakness Petter and I have had this year is when we are fighting for the lead," said Latvala.
"When we are in this position and then we reach for that little bit extra and take some more speed to make some more seconds, then we have been pushing too much. This is where Loeb is perfect. If we can get this right and control the pace then it will make a difference."
Solberg starts the event 46 points adrift of the eight-time champion, while Latvala is 74 down on Loeb. Latvala won the Auckland-based event last time it was run (in 2010).