With one-and-a-half sessions lost after overnight rain made the McLean Park outfield too wet for early play, the West Indies had reached 95 for one before bad light brought an early end to the day soon after tea on Saturday.
Lara was not out 28 with Daren Ganga on 31 as they put together an unbeaten 58-run partnership for the second wicket.
Stephen Fleming won the toss for New Zealand and elected to bat under overcast skies as New Zealand vie for their first ever 3-0 series clean sweep in 76 years of Test cricket.
Everything appeared in his favour with ace bowler Shane Bond recovered from the virus that kept him out of the second Test, the sky overcast and the outfield slow.
But the bowlers found little assistance in the conditions, with the pitch which had been under covers much of the week not holding the threatening pace they wanted.
West Indies openers Chris Gayle and Ganga negotiated their way to 37 before New Zealand's sole breakthrough came with the introduction of Chris Martin into the attack.
Gayle had raced to 30 off 27 balls when Martin tempted him into the drive that went straight to Peter Fulton at short cover.
Lara came in at first drop, after batting at No. 4 in the first two Tests where he only amassed seven runs in four innings.
But determined to go out in style in his last appearance in New Zealand, the world record holder was full of concentration as he picked his strokes with care, and while not demonstrating much footwork, his timing was evident with a couple of crashing drives.
Lara survived an attempted Bond hattrick, having fallen to New Zealand's prime fast bowler first ball in the first Test, and survived a testing period from Nathan Astle.
Slow-medium pacer Astle had the better of Lara in the second Test, but apart from one close leg-before-wicket shout here, he could not claim the upper hand.
At tea, the West Indies were 75 for one, and they added 20 in 5.2 overs after the resumption of play before being offered the light.
Martin had the only wicket to fall and finished the day with one for 18, while Astle gave up 10 runs from his 6.2 overs.