10 Jul 2015

Gisborne battles snow, power cuts

8:49 pm on 10 July 2015

Additional lines crews are being brought in from Bay of Plenty and Wellington to restore power to about 200 homes and businesses still without power because of heavy snow bringing down lines and poles in the Gisborne area.

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General manager of the lines company Eastland Network, Brent Stewart said those crews would start work tomorrow.

Mr Stewart said the biggest challenge was getting to properties, not just on isolated rural roads but on some of the main roads.

"Because of the volume of snow and how quickly it happened to us, in my time here it's the biggest snow storm I've seen here."

Mr Stewart said lines workers have been going out in pairs so they could tow each other out if one vehicle slid into a ditch - as well as helping people whose vehicles are stranded in snow drifts.

He said all 20,000 connections in the region were cut at some point, but not all at the same time.

A Gisborne doctor said power cuts caused by snow last night left some patients without essential medical equipment - and others freezing in uninsulated homes.

About 200 properties in the Gisborne area are still without power after North Island's east coast woke to a deluge of snow that has also closed a number of main roads, this morning.

Clinical leader of urban health at Ngati Porou Hauora in Gisborne, Willem Jordaan, said the power cuts meant some people were unable to use electrically powered medical equipment.

Mr Jordaan said no electricity also meant no heating - but many of his patients could not afford that anyway.

He said many of his patients lived in homes without insulation, so the cold came straight in.

"Which ends up [with] the whole family sleeping in one room to try and keep warm and out of the draught, which influences the amount of throat infections in the kids and the whanau, which puts them again at risk of rheumatic fever.

"Winter for our patients is always a big crisis.

"If they don't get the support to follow up and get it fixed, they just leave it," he said.

What you need to know - all the latest information related to today's weather

The North Island's east coast woke to a rare deluge of snow this morning.

Radio New Zealand's correspondent in Gisborne, Murray Robertson, said he could not remember when he'd last seen so much snow fall on the Wharerata ranges.

"It's like a sea of white, it's like looking at a glacier, it's incredibly pure white across the top of the ranges, and the ranges right through have got good falls of snow on them."


Someone's having fun in the snow at the Matawai Hotel, Gisborne. Photo: Matawai Hotel

He said locals have told him it's the heaviest fall of snow in Gisborne for 30 years.

The Matawai Hotel hosted a dozen extra guests last night who could not get in or out of Gisborne due to the road closures.

Essie Langley owns the Matawai Hotel, on the edge of one of the closed routes into Gisborne.

She said 12 people stayed last night who were caught out by the closures - but her rooms were already full with a work group when the extras showed up.

"We weren't hoping to take any more guests last night, but we squeezed them in.

"We've got an annexe out the back which I cleared stuff out of, and we stuck them in there and a couple upstairs," she said.

Gisborne District Council warns motorists to take extra care on extremely dangerous roads.


Mr Langley said among the stranded travellers were families with young children.

Gisborne was all but cut off by the snow, as State Highway 2 was shut on both the Opotiki and the Wairoa sides.

State Highway 2 from Wairoa to Gisborne is now open to one lane of traffic, but the road into the city from Opotiki remains closed.

Farmers on East Cape have described the snow falls there as severe as anything they've ever seen.

Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa president, Sandra Faulkner, told Morning Report farmers, and their animals, were coping.

"Farmers on the East Cape tend to be resilient by nature, or nature forces us to be that way, between drought and flood and now snow so they will cope accordingly."

Snow on the outskirts of Gisborne, last night.

Snow on the outskirts of Gisborne, last night. Photo: Gisborne District Council

She said luckily there were very few lambs in the hills at the moment and stock was generally in good shape in the region.

White outs cause power outs

Every house in Gisborne lost power at some point last night - and up to 200 customers in the region are still without electricity.

Eastland Network said snow and lightning were cutting power intermittently through Gisborne, Wairoa and the East Cost.

Tiwai Reedy was at hospital with his father in Gisborne when the power went out last night.

He said: "The hospital lights went out, but fortunately, at the hospital the generators kicked in for them.

"Because Cook Hospital is above Gisborne, you can see the city through the windows. And after the power went off, the entire city was in blackness."

He said his parents are elderly, and the experience was "quite freightening".

Heavy snow on the Naiper to Taupo Road.

Photo: SUPPLIED / Mohaka Rafting

He said when he headed home about 2am, Gisborne was still "completely black - it was quite unnerving".

Titiokura Summit, Hawke's Bay.

Photo: SUPPLIED / Mohaka Rafting

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