15 Dec 2011

State of emergency declared in Nelson-Tasman

12:40 am on 15 December 2011

A state of emergency has been declared in the Nelson-Tasman region as heavy rain continues to pound the top of the South Island.

Houses have been evacuated and emergency services are concerned about saturated land becoming vulnerable to slips.


The state of emergency was declared on Wednesday night after more than 300 millimetres of rain fell on the ranges inland from Golden Bay in 24 hours from 5pm on Tuesday.

The MetService says a severe weather warning remains in place and the torrential rain is not expected to ease until about midday on Thursday afternoon. By then, as much as half a metre of rain may have fallen in some places.

The Tasman District Council's communications officer, Chris Choat, warns people should stay at home.

"While the rivers are coping, stormwater systems are certainly under pressure and we are trying to keep people off roads, at home and preferably from going out to see where the trouble is."

In Nelson city and eastern Golden Bay, extensive flooding has started to cause land movement and slips have been reported on hillsides. Police and Civil Defence have advised residents there who feel unsafe to leave their homes.

The army has been placed on stand-by as emergency services attend flooding incidents.

The public information officer for the Nelson Emergency Operations Centre, Angela Ricker, says an army truck with personnel would drive across the Takaka Hill overnight on Wednesday.

Tasman police district communications manager Barbara Dunn says flooding could reach a tipping point about 1.30am on Thursday, when more heavy rain and high tide are expected.

Ms Dunn says people should get in touch if they are concerned about their property.

"The important message is if people think they are in danger to notify us straight away. Don't sit there and wait and worry - give us a call."

Evacuations and rescues

At the Oakwoods Retirement Village in Richmond, six villas had to be evacuated on Wednesday after a creek broke its banks and another four might be at risk. However, manager Stephen Davis says despite the rain, spirits are good.

In Golden Bay, 24 people have been evacuated after a dam collapsed. They had been stranded at Pohara gully and were rescued by police using front-end loaders.

Earlier, police were called out to rescue two men who clung to a tree after being swept away in the swollen Maitai River.

Sergeant Steve Savage says the pair were out looking at the fast-flowing river when one of them went in and was carried away and his friend went in to help.

Mr Savage says the men climbed a poplar tree and had to wait for more than an hour to be rescued by police using an inflatable boat.

Many roads closed

Many roads in the region are closed due to widespread flooding.

State Highway 60 at Takaka Hill has been closed and will not re-open before Thursday morning.

On State Highway 6, the Brightwater Bridge is down to one lane and a large slip near Birds Hill has cut off the village of Collingwood.

Emergency services are advising motorists to avoid all but essential travel and to drive with extreme caution.