5 Jan 2018

Storm turns fatal as heavy rain and strong winds batter the country

2:56 pm on 5 January 2018

The North Island has been dealt a severe blow with heavy rains and strong winds causing havoc across the region.

Flooding at Cooks Beach.

Flooding at Cooks Beach. Photo: Paul Langdon

One person has died in Rotorua after heavy gales caused a large oak tree to come down in Rotorua.

The woman died after becoming trapped in her car. Fire crews had to use chainsaws to cut through the branches to reach her.

Elsewhere, most of the Coromandel Peninsula is almost cut off by flooding and numerous road closures.

Flooding at a bach in Cook's Beach in the Coromandel.

Flooding at a bach in Cook's Beach in the Coromandel. Photo: Supplied

About 200 people have been evacuated from Kaiaua Village in the Hauraki District, and fire crews are assisting residents to get them to higher ground.

Heavy waves have also caused debris to be strewn across State Highway 25 and the Thames Coast Road has been closed.

In Whitianga, large waves have battered the roads.

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Whangapoua Wharf, north of Whitianga in Coromandel.

Whangapoua Wharf, north of Whitianga in Coromandel. Photo: Marcus Stickley

Lloyd Whelan, who has been holidaying in the area for 40 years, said the water level was phenomenal.

"We are getting a puncture repaired and looked at, but normally we wouldn't drive in weather like this," he said.

"This is not the worst storm I've seen here, but the king tide and wind direction and the amount of water that has come down has made the water higher than I've ever seen it before.

"I've never seen it cross the road."

Mr Whelan said that gusts in the area have been severe.

In Northland, power is still out to hundreds of homes - with at least 500 being affected in the Dargaville area.

Northland Civil Defence officer Bill Huthcinson said the fire service had received hundreds of call-outs for wind-related issues, but no major flooding had been reported.

Auckland is also still experiencing power outages, with Vector reporting at least 30 faults.

Some residents in Kumeu were without power for more than 12 hours, which has affected water pumps. Power has since been restored to that area.

Constant rainfall is also causing flooding, with Tamaki Drive in Mission Bay still being closed to motorists.

Earlier today, the Northern motorway southbound near the Harbour Bridge was closed due to flooding. It has since reopened, but there is still surface flooding in the area.

High waves are also causing commuter problems, with the Gulf Harbour and Waiheke Island ferry services being cancelled.

Dave Robinson, who was on the last ferry to the city, and said it took hours before passengers were allowed off the ferry due to storm surges and the king tide.

"The weather is terribly bad, with big white horses coming in and high winds. The sea is over the ramp where we have to come off."

MetService said the bad weather is expected to ease by about 6pm.

A deep low is expected to move southeastwards across the central region, with heavy rain expected again overnight in the North Island and the upper South Island.

The heaviest rain is expected to fall at Mount Taranaki, Tongariro National Park, the eastern ranges of Bay of Plenty, and Marlborough.

A tree blocks Matapihi Station Road in Tauranga

A tree blocks Matapihi Station Road in Tauranga Photo: Supplied / Priscilla Borell

Severe gales are expected in exposed places across the North Island, also Marlborough and north Canterbury during today and Saturday.

The Wellington region is still basking in sunshine, but further north on the east coast, Gisborne has been issued a wind warning.

Severe gales could reach 120km/h in exposed places this afternoon.

A heavy rain warning has been lifted, but there it is expected some of the heavy rain in the Bay of Plenty could spill over with about 60 to 80mm expected to fall in the ranges.

Wellington's south coast could also be flooded tonight as the winds change course.

South Island

Water pumps are running throughout Christchurch after heavy rain and a king tide caused flooding this morning throughout the city.

Yesterday, the Christchurch City Council deployed the pumps, including in flood-prone Flockton and Southshore, ahead of the expected bad weather.

Parts of the city, particularly along the Heathcote River, regularly flood during heavy rain.

Christchurch City Council's land drainage spokesperson Tim Joyce said all of the pumps were turned on about 3am today as the heavy rain began, and were keeping most of the flood water at bay.

However, Mr Joyce said some areas were still flooding, including parts of the Heathcote River, Southshore, and Main South Road.

The Heathcote River in Christchurch on Friday morning.

The Heathcote River in Christchurch on Friday morning. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

On Maces Road, a pump was "struggling" to keep up with the volume of water.

"Down in the lower reaches of the Avon and Heathcote [rivers] there is flooding along some of the roads, as we usually experience," he said.

MetService expected about 36mm of rain to fall in the city today.

Mr Joyce said the council had received many calls this morning from affected residents, and council staff were out unblocking drains and keeping an eye on water levels.

He said the rain was expected to ease later today, and people needed to stay put and wait it out.

"Don't travel if you don't have to and keep off the flooded roads."

He did not think the flooding would get worse, and did not expect water to reach homes.

"The tide is going out and the water will recede."

The wild weather had also closed State Highway One north and south of Kaikoura, with an inland route on State Highway 70 the only open road into the seaside town.

Meanwhile other South Island districts welcomed the rain.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley said between 15mm and 40mm of rain had fallen in the district today, topping up water supplies and giving fire fighters a break.

Mr Dalley said the district had been very dry, with a few fire "scares", but today's rain would help dampen down dry land.

"There has been a few fires already, so this change of temperature and moisture will be very welcome," he said.

At the start of summer, parts of Hurunui were under water restrictions, with authorities especially worried about Hanmer Springs' water supply.

Mr Dalley said even though water levels were never critically low, today's rain would take some stress off supplies during the busy holiday period.

NZTA are warning South Island motorists to be careful.

Main centre forecasts


Showers, some heavy, easing evening. Northerlies turning westerly, strong gusting 110 km​/​h, easing evening.


Periods of rain, possibly heavy. Strong gusty northwesterlies, gusting 100 km​/​h, easing evening.


Periods of rain, heavy at times. Strong gusty northerlies, possibly gale at times.


Sunny spells. Periods of rain from midday, possibly heavy. Southeast turning southwest evening, possibly gale.


Rain, possibly heavy at times, easing at night. Easterlies turn southwest morning, strong from afternoon.


Cloudy, a few showers. Southwesterlies, strong about the coast from afternoon.


Mostly cloudy, a few showers. Southwesterlies.

- MetService

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