10 Jan 2013

Big clean-up after days of wild weather

9:31 pm on 10 January 2013

Authorities face days of cleaning up roads and walking tracks in the wake of the wild weather in New Zealand over the past several days.

Bridges have been washed out, roofs torn off houses and a caravan flipped as high winds and heavy rain pounded parts of the country.

The MetService says Taranaki will get the last of the strong winds and heavy rainfall that as the weather system dies out overnight on Thursday.

Highways throughout the South Island remain closed due to slips and washouts from rain, flooding and high river levels. The Transport Agency says up to 400 millimetres of rain fell in 48 hours in parts of the mainland.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council says it does not expect any problems when lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu peak early on Friday morning.

High flows in the Clutha River will affect Balclutha, where low-level flooding is expected on Saturday.

In Central Otago, several rivers are running at near record levels, forcing water-based tourism operators to suspend activities.

Shotover Jet Boat says its boats may not be back on the water until Saturday. Jet boat operations on the Dart River have also been cancelled, along with rafting and kayaking operations on other major waterways in the area.

The Department of Conservation has initiated emergency response measures to assist trampers after flooding caused washouts on the Milford Track in Fiordland.

In Kaikoura, winds blew the roofs off several houses on Thursday.

In the North Island, strong winds at the summit of the Rimutaka Hills near Wellington have lifted a car and caravan, causing it to roll. Two people suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

Roads affected

State Highway 6 from Haast to Makarora was temporarily re-opened on Thursday evening after two large slips were discovered by contractors earlier in the day.

The road was open until 9pm before being closed overnight. It would open again at 6am on Friday.

State Highway 73 from Arthur's Pass to Springfield is open - but to only one lane of traffic as contractors work to clear a slip overnight.

Rockfalls have closed State Highway 94 from Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. The Transport Agency says it will remain closed until further notice.

State Highway 94 from Lumsden to Te Anau reopened on Thursday evening after flooding washed out the approach to the bridge at Whitestone River.

Southland rivers peak

The headwaters of all Southland rivers have peaked on Thursday after 18 hours of intense rainfall.

The Southland Regional Council says significant rain totals have been recorded. The impact of the rain was lessened by several days of dry weather.

The council says many areas of low-lying pasture have and will be affected as peak river levels make their way downstream. Farmers who have not already moved stock to higher ground in the lower reaches of the Oreti and Mataura River catchments are advised to do so.

There was flooding in parts of Southland on Wednesday night, with the Fire Service saying Gore was the worst affected.

The Gore Volunteer Fire Brigade said flooding was widespread in the north and west of the town and came within inches of several houses, but there were no evacuations.