26 Jul 2022

Continuing downpours cause widespread disruption across Canterbury

9:40 pm on 26 July 2022

Schools have been shut, businesses inundated and dozens of roads closed around Christchurch today, as heavy rain continues to lash the region.

Greenpark Street in Hoon Hay on 26 July 2022, where residents say it's the worst flooding they've ever seen.

Greenpark Street in Hoon Hay, where residents say it's the worst flooding they've ever seen. Photo: RNZ / Tessa Guest

Already more than 70mm of rain has fallen in the past 24 hours, amid the city's wettest July on record.

Some residents said it was the worst flooding to hit in a decade.

Phoenix was set to celebrate her 12th birthday today, but plans changed when flooding in her Shirley suburb made it impossible to get the car out the driveway.

"We were supposed to be going out to the mall and stuff, getting some clothes, but it turns out I'm going swimming instead," she giggled.

The floodwaters in her garden were halfway up her gumboots.

Phone booths underwater on Edgeware Road, Christchurch.

Phone booths underwater on Edgeware Road, Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Flooding also forced students from Christchurch Girls' High School to learn from home.

Principal Christine O'Neill said it was the first time anyone can remember floodwaters closing the school.

"We've got it on three fronts. The river has risen up to the island, where we have a whole set of classrooms and facilities. We've got a burst council water main down the other end of the school which has created pretty significant flooding down there. And then we've got overflowing storm water down this end," she explained.

Twenty classrooms, the staffroom and careers centre were unable to be used today, with a call still yet to be made about tomorrow.

Just a few suburbs north, in St Albans, Mark was busy clearing out his neighbours' drain for the second time in a week.

Greenpark Street in Hoon Hay on 26 July 2022, where residents say it's the worst flooding they've ever seen.

Flooding in Greenpark Street in Hoon Hay Photo: RNZ / Tessa Guest

"There's general rubbish, cabbage tree leaves and all sorts in there. You would hope that they'd be regularly cleaned out, considering the council now wants to put up our rates by most probably even more... yet again we're out doing this, but hey look, if it stops these guys getting water through their doors," he said.

The local Peter Timbs butcher just round the corner has also been repeatedly flooded.

David Timbs runs the store. He said today's water mark was the highest this year.

"This is actually the third time this month, so there's been some extreme weather around the place. But yeah... we're dealing with it. It's getting a bit frustrating though when it's been three times in a month. It sort of starts to wear you down a wee bit," he said.

The problem first began after the Canterbury Earthquakes and it was high time the council walked the talk, Timbs said.

"The infrastructure needs to be remedied so it doesn't happen again or it doesn't continue to happen because obviously it can't, it can't continue to happen. It's got to stop. I realise on the odd occasion, in an extreme weather event, we'll get a bit of water but not three times in a month. It's not really fair."

Barbadoes Street Bridge over the Ōtakaro Avon River, Christchurch.

Barbadoes Street Bridge over the Ōtakaro Avon River, Christchurch. Photo: RNZ/Niva Chittock

But Christchurch City Council Head of Three Waters, Helen Beaumont, said a basic storm water pipe upgrade won't help.

"When the water level rises in St Albans Creek, the drainage no longer works and it backs up. And the low point on Edgeware Road is in the same place as the butcher's shop. So any upgrades to the curb and channel or the pipe network won't address the issue," she said.

There are options to permanently solve the issue, but it would cost around $20m and Edgeware doesn't meet the council's priority criteria, Beaumont explained.

"It would be a big job to drain that. We'd have to either put in a major pump station or look at what the floor levels are in that part of town."

The rain is forecast to continue through until midnight in Ōtautahi, with people urged to check in with friends, neighbours and whānau and stay away from flood waters.

Flooding closes more than 20 roads in Waitaki District

The Waitaki District Council warned people to stay home as flooding closed more than 20 roads.

It was closely monitoring the Kakanui River and said other rivers and waterways remained manageable - but they were rising.

The council said it was expecting more closures and flooding tonight.

Local schools were told the roads would not be opened in time for the school run tomorrow morning.

Nearby, Clutha Civil Defence Emergency Management was monitoring flooding and waterways in the region with snow forecast for the Crown Range Road.

Otago students prepped for evacuation

This afternoon, Dunedin Council warned residents living close to the Leith River that heavy rain could lead to flooding overnight.

Students living in a small number of low-lying flats closest to the Leith River were advised to prepare for a possible evacuation, according to the Council.

Campus Watch door-knocked about 20 affected homes, located between Montgomery Avenue and Leith Street to warn residents of possible flooding.

The council said students living in the affected homes should consider leaving immediately if they had somewhere else to stay.

Those who chose to remain were urged to keep a bag packed and be ready to move at short notice. Emergency services would evacuate remaining residents, if necessary, later tonight.

An evacuation centre will also be open tonight at the Dunedin North Intermediate, and alternative accommodation options are available.

Emergency Management Otago asked people to remain vigilant over water levels in their area overnight, as heavy rain continued to fall across the region.

Water of Leith flooding on 26 July 2022.

The rising level of the Water of Leith has led to evacuations in Dunedin tonight. Photo: RNZ / Rob Dixon

MetService has issued Orange Heavy Rain warnings for North Otago and Dunedin until tomorrow morning.

More vulnerable areas include Mosgiel near Silver Stream Spillway, Henley township, Milton, and parts of South Dunedin.

Sandbags are available from the Victoria Road car park near the Dunedin Ice Stadium and at the Memorial Park carpark in Mosgiel.

Group Controller Matt Alley said people should check their council and Waka Kotahi's Facebook and websites.

He said people should dial 111 if there was an emergency.

Heavy rain has led to surface flooding in the North Otago township of Maheno.

Surface flooding in the North Otago township of Maheno. Photo: Supplied / Waka Kotahi

SH1 near Seddon reopened

State Highway 1 near Seddon in Marlborough reopened to traffic this afternoon after being closed earlier today due to flooding.

A single lane had been cleared for use under stop-go conditions.

Waka Kotahi said State Highway 63 was also closed between State Highway 6 and Anglesea Street intersections due to flooding. There were providing a detour via Renwick.

Meanwhile, contractors removed a large log jam from the Waiau River Bridge on State Highway 1, north of Blenheim.

James said the work was needed to relieve pressure on the bridge.

McAnulty pleased with emergency response

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty at Parliament this afternoon said he had spoken to all the mayors affected by the heavy rain hitting much of the country today.

"They all seem fairly relaxed to be honest with you. It's either in control or being monitored - one isolated community down south but they've got all the gear they need, couple of closed roads in Timaru area but the mayor was quite happy," McAnulty said.

One area of flooding towards the hills in Timaru but that was being relieved by opening flood gates, he said.

"So most of the areas are good as gold, and those that are a little bit worried, they know that if they need help they'll get it from NEMA (the National Emergency Management Agency), but at this stage there's been no intervention at all."

He said support would be available if there was damage on farms or roads, or if animals were in danger.

"We're definitely going to consider that but at this stage we're not too sure of the wider impact yet, but they do know that if there is severe damage either on farms or on roads there is support available. There's also support available if there is animal welfare issues at hand, and there is the potential for that, but at the moment like I say they're not too worried."


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