Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Cold end to Labour Day weekend

Josh Townley 14, from Auckland has some fun in the rain at the Kopua Holiday Park at Raglan. Photo / NZ Herald
Josh Townley 14, from Auckland has some fun in the rain at the Kopua Holiday Park at Raglan. Photo / NZ Herald

The long weekend has come to a cold and blustery end for many as snow fell in Canterbury, a tornado ripped through a small West Coast town and a cold snap moved up the country.

The unseasonable weather came with a cold southerly that brought snow as low as 200m to parts of Canterbury and gusts of up to 110km/h to Kaikoura this morning.

In the the mid-Canterbury town of Methven, about 8cm of heavy snow settled overnight before thawing in light rain and sleet this morning, leaving roads clear but making gumboots a necessity.

Farmers were not too badly affected, with Mt Hutt farmer Jeanette Maxwell saying lambing had been quite manageable.

The snow was a welcome surprise for local children, some of whom revelled in the chance to make a snowman.

"It's good for fun," said 10-year-old Isabella McDonald, who played in the snow with her siblings and a neighbour.

It was a different story on the South Island's West Coast, where a tornado flattened an old wooden theatre, tore roofs off houses and shattered windows as it ripped through a small settlement overnight.

The twister struck the towns of Hector and Ngakawau on the Ngakawau River mouth, about 30km up the coast from Westport, about 12.30am.

Granity deputy fire chief Graham Gilbert said the 50m-wide twister caused "quite a bit of damage" as it travelled about 800m up the gorge.

It "completely flattened" the old picture theatre - a large wooden building that was being used for storage.

"Part of the iron that came off went up to another property and it was all tangled amongst the trees. It caused the power to go off," Mr Gilbert said.

"A couple of houses down, there was a chimney that fell over onto a car port and smashed that, and some of the iron scattered about 150m down the road. There's a few trees down."

The tornado also knocked out the side of a garage and lifted parts of two roofs. The roofing iron shattered windows when it blew into houses across the road.

Mr Gilbert said the local volunteer fire brigade did not have to attend because people in the small community were "fairly resilient".

Most were getting on with making their own properties safe, while some had called in contractors from Westport.

Mr Gilbert said a few twisters had been funnelled up the Ngakawau Gorge in recent years.

Power was restored this morning.

The lower North Island was also hit with bad weather today as the cold southerly moved up the country, bringing wind and rain to Wellington this afternoon after a bright and sunny morning.

The cold snap was forecast to move further north through Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, bringing heavy showers and squally wind to coastal areas.

The weather likely contributed to a four-motorcycle crash in the central North Island this morning.

Two riders were treated for moderate injuries after the crash on State Highway 4, about 1km south of National Park village.

Police said the road surface was slick due to the weather.

They reminded commuters to pay particular attention to both the weather and road conditions while travelling home from the long weekend.

The South Island was set to receive more chilly weather tonight as a deep cold trough moved onto Southland and Otago.

Heavy showers were likely and could bring hail to Southland, Clutha and the Otago Peninsula, where there was also a low risk thunderstorms at night.

- Additional reporting: Ashburton Guardian, Westport News

- APNZ

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